YHN and other parent bloggers (Abel Pharmboy, Dr. Free-Ride, DuWayne Brayton) have been musing on what DuWayne called "the conversation that never ends". To wit, the conversation that parents anticipate having with their children over the use of recreational psychoactive substances and their attendant risks. The discussion touched on several topics related to parental involvement in teen alcohol consumption which led me to a simple proposal for your consideration DearReader.
(Apologies in advance to some non-US readers who feel that US culture is a bit Puritantical on alcohol. )
Abel Pharmboy moved us onto the question of community standards and external expectations regarding parenting behavior:
I agonized over the wording here in part because I live in a liberal outpost of a very conservative area where discussion of relative risks of drugs is not looked upon kindly and has actually gotten parents in trouble.
To which DuWayne responded:
it's a catch twenty two. On the one hand, the only way to effect change is to talk about why these are perfectly reasonable choices. On the other hand, if one talks about it, it could be cause for serious legal problems. This is a tough enough issue that even living someplace as reasonable about these things as Portland is, it still makes me a bit nervous, talking about it.
This links us to a comment left by bachelor on an AiE&S post:
Remember Elisa Kelly? Sent to jail for two years because she thought her son would be safer if she supervised the party?
For context, a news item from Charlottesville, VA, tells us:
The Albemarle County parents accused of serving alcohol to their son's under-aged friends were released from jail Monday morning.
Elisa Kelly and George Robinson were sentenced to twenty-seven months in jail, but spent five behind bars.
What many around our community did, including friends, family and attorneys of both Elisa and George, was write letters to the state parole board asking that the two be let go.
The couple, married at the time of the party, each pleaded guilty to nine counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, although they said they confiscated car keys at the beginning of the party and nobody was hurt.
The case became a cautionary tale for parents who allow underage drinking in their homes under the belief that it is better to let kids drink while supervised than for them to be drinking elsewhere and out on the roads.
I have to say that as a teen YHN profited immensely from a number of parents of friends who expressed the Kelly/Robinson attitude toward risk-reduction. Although I don't recall any of them supplying the alcohol, they were willing to permit the party to go on at their house so long as nobody was driving home until the next day. This made all kinds of sense to me at the time, as you might imagine.
It still does. Do we even need to review the data suggesting drunk driving is a rather healthy risk category? Do we need to debate whether this is a greater harm than simply getting drunk in a safe location? Well, I'm sure if a case is to be made someone will chime in...
This brings me to my simple thought that it may be time to enact a Good Samaritan type of law, likely on a local and regionally-limited basis. The idea would be to limit the legal liability of parents who, in good faith, attempt to minimize harm from alcohol drinking and driving by opening their homes to teen partying.
I am not suggesting blanket protection from irresponsible behavior, far from it. The idea would not be to facilitate providing large amounts of alcohol to underage drinkers without concern. Rather, it might enshrine a way for the legal system simply to consider the entirety of the situation in deciding if a couple like the aforementioned Kelly/Robinson pair acted mostly for the good or for ill.
What do you think? Did you have parents in your circle of friends that permitted parties at their house under the "anything better than drunk-driving" hypothesis? Parents who (like my own) might be disposed toward this view but would never take on the liability? Would you ever see yourself hosting your kids' and their friends' under a harm-reduction rationale? Are you dissuaded by the obvious liability issues?