[An edited version of this article was published in CLIPS for July 2007]
Last month I wrote in CLIPS about after-parties, parents who serve alcohol to others’ children, and the dangers to children and to the school community’s sense of mutual trust that such parties create. I received over 30 emails and several letters, phone calls, and office visits in response, all from parents (or grandparents!) who share my concerns.
After careful consideration, and in collaboration with representatives from both the administration and the PTC, Campbell Hall has decided to move forward with two programs related to this issue. The first program is designed to raise awareness and provide supportive networking among parents, while the second focuses on clearly communicating the seriousness with which the school views the issue of alcohol at after-parties.
First, the school will be sponsoring a voluntary parent pledge program, encouraging all parents in grades seven through twelve to sign a pledge that all parties in their homes that include students will be sufficiently chaperoned, and that they will neither serve nor permit the use of alcohol or drugs in their homes during events where students are gathered. Parents will be asked to sign the pledge annually, and the names of all parents choosing to sign the pledge will be published within the school community. Such programs already exist at many other schools, as a simple web search demonstrates. Our research into existing programs shows that some parents may refuse to sign the pledge as a matter of principle, and others may believe, for example, that serving a glass of wine with dinner teaches children the values of moderate social drinking and is a better practice than zero tolerance. Our community recognizes and honors a diversity of parenting styles. The pledge and a list of those families choosing to participate provide many parents much sought-after support in keeping their children safe, and that is a clear enough warrant that we are moving ahead with the pledge beginning this fall for the 2007-2008 school year.
Secondly, the school is adding policies that allow for suspension or dismissal of students whose parents knowingly serve alcohol at after-parties in their homes, or whose negligence allows such parties to take place, after school-sponsored social events such as homecoming, prom, and winter formal. Our previous practice has been to disallow the distribution at school of advertising or tickets for such parties, and to call the parents involved with the strongest warnings we can voice concerning the dangers of such events. Still, the after-parties continue. Parents who host such parties are showing a clear disrespect for the school’s ethos, and that disrespect warrants a stronger response on our part.
On the other hand, we will not follow the advice of some of you that we dismiss any family serving alcohol to minors under any circumstances. I repeat the reluctance to police families’ personal lives that I voiced in my article last month. It is simply not within our mission to investigate the rumors emerging from the many weekend social activities; we will instead focus on doing what we can to discourage parties after major school social events.
Safety has always been one of our primary goals, and we undertake the steps I outline above in that light. I do hope they will make a difference and thus be helpful to the broader parent community in our mutual goal of raising decent, responsible, and loving children.