Breaking out on Break
Spring Break. These two words have become synonymous with planning the perfect warm-weather getaway with friends and getting a tan, but also with excessive partying. And with Spring Break just a countdown away for local students, it’s also an opportunity to educate underage youth on the dangers of drug and alcohol use.
“We want people to have a great Spring Break and a safe one,” said Truckee Police Chief Scott Berry, who is teaming up with the Coalition for a Drug-Free Nevada County to help spread the word that alcohol use and adolescents don’t mix.
The goal is to ensure teens are safe while out of school during their annual week off following Easter, Chief Berry said. Truckee police are working with Tahoe Truckee Unified School District to send out a flier to notify parents of the importance of drug and alcohol education.
April is Alcohol Awareness month, which has been observed as a national campaign since 1987 and is supported by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence. This year, the campaign’s message is directed toward teens.
“At almost every high school dance, we invariably have at least one person who shows up with alcohol in their system,” said Truckee Police Officer Bryan Berry, who also serves as the school resources officer for all Truckee schools.
In response to a March high school dance that got a little out of hand, the Truckee High leadership class organized “Students Against Drunk Dancing,” with the main focus on teen sobriety and having fun, said Truckee High Vice Principal Grant Steunenberg. Students were offered a dollar off their admission ticket if they signed a paper stating they would not attend the dance under the influence of drugs or alcohol, he said. Last Friday’s dance attracted about 200 students, a lesser turnout compared to some school dances, but Steunenberg used the dance as an opportunity to reach out to students.
“I had a conversation with just about every kid,” said Steunenberg.
Teen alcohol and drug use at school dances isn’t a problem, he said, but there’s usually a small number of students who decide to attend school functions under the influence. Using “Students Against Drunk Dancing” as an example, Steunenberg said he hopes sobriety will continue to be the standard for future school events.
From youths cutting class “to get away to smoke a little pot,” to the arrest of students who show up at a high school dance with a blood alcohol level of .25 percent, drug and alcohol use is prevalent no matter what school you examine, Officer Bryan Berry said.
There’s a difference between the actual reason why teens choose to drink alcohol versus an excuse, he said. In Truckee, youths have plenty of things to do during the day, but at night, alcohol consumption at teen parties has become socially acceptable ” and that’s their common excuse, he said. He added that he has seen more students take responsibility by not drinking and offering to be sober drivers for their friends.
And when it comes to partying on Spring Break, “society certainly does put a lot of pressure on (teens),” Bryan Berry said.
The teens who have the broadest base of support from family and friends are more likely to choose to refrain from alcohol and drug use, he said. The absence of a parent can create tension that creates negative feelings toward a parent. By parents playing an active role in their teen’s life ” and knowing where and who they’re teen is with ” limits the chances of an adolescent being tempted to experiment with drugs and alcohol, Officer Bryan Berry added.
“Have a heart-to-heart with teens,” suggested Chief Scott Berry. “Parents have to reinforce they’re the parent.”