, Salem, MA


May 14, 2012

Our View: Verdict sends strong message on teen drinking

Those who think serving alcohol to their adolescent children and their friends is no big deal, got a wake-up call last week when a Beverly mother found guilty of doing so was sentenced to six months in jail.

The case involved an October 2010 Halloween/birthday party at which alcohol was consumed by ninth- and 10-graders, one of whom ended up in the hospital, where she was treated for acute intoxication.

A Salem District Court jury found 37-year-old Tiffany Clark's protestations of innocence regarding her involvement in the party, hosted by her then-15-year-old daughter, not credible and convicted her of furnishing alcohol to minors. Her six-month jail sentence (followed by six months of house arrest) was less than what the prosecution requested, but still sends a powerful message regarding the consequences of allowing teens to drink in one's home.

As Judge Robert Brennan, himself the father of teenagers, told Clark, "As a community, (we) rely on other adults to behave responsibly and to look out for our kids. ... We don't expect parents to create a situation where kids can come into harm."

Essex District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett, whose office prosecuted the case, has repeatedly warned that adults who take on the responsibility of raising children must act as parents first, and friends second.

The verdict and sentencing come at a particularly appropriate time as parents, and their kids, prepare for the season of proms and graduation parties.

Every parent wants their child to be popular and have fun. And some defend allowing drinking in their home as better than the alternative — having kids do it in a place without any adult supervision.

The fact is neither is acceptable.

As Blodgett notes, "There is no such thing as a safe underage drinking party."

Certainly adults shouldn't be hosting them; and as for those unsupervised parties, parents must drill the message into their kids that when the alcohol comes out, it's time for them to leave.

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