Did you know that about 3.6 million students will graduate high school this year? And did you also know that despite requests to hold their applause until all names are read at graduation, about 500,000 parents will clap, cheer, or otherwise ignore those requests?
OK, I made up that last statistic, but high school graduation is an exciting time for young adults and overly-enthusiastic parents. With about two-thirds of high school students planning to go to college after graduation, the temptation to treat them as adults or to let them “blow off some steam” at a party may be quite high for some parents.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures (www.ncsl.org), thirty-one states allow social hosts to be civilly liable for injuries or damages caused by under-aged drinkers, and thirty states have criminal penalties for adults who host or permit parties with underage drinking to occur in the adult’s homes or in premises under the adult’s control. In Illinois, adults can also be held accountable for underage drinking that occurs in the home, even if they did not provide the alcohol and were not home at the time.
In a case from 2006, the parents of a local high school student were convicted of child endangerment and obstruction of justice after two teens died when their car crashed into a tree after leaving a party at their home. Their high-school aged son was hosting a drinking party in their basement with their knowledge and permission. They also faced a five-year court battle with the parents of the deceased teenagers until the Illinois Supreme Court reversed the civil judgement that initially held them liable.
So what can parents do to stay on the right side of the law?
· Make it clear to their children that any graduation party at their home will not include underage drinking.
· If their children are going to other parties where alcohol is available, remind them that many academic and athletic scholarships are conditioned on good behavior. Don’t let them start their college careers with a disciplinary hearing because of an alcohol-related offense.
Remove underage drinkers who try and bring their own alcohol to the party. Secure alternative transportation for them if needed.
If your guests include parents of teenage attendees, remind them of your “house rules”. They may have different attitudes about underage drinking.
If things get to out-of-hand, call the police for assistance. In many states, including Illinois, this can absolve you of criminal and civil liability.
While alcohol-fuel parties are often glamorized in movies and on social media, your graduation party doesn’t have to be one of them. Parents or others of legal drinking age can still drink responsibly and set a good example for their new graduates. Remember that they’re still only 17 or 18 years old and it wasn’t that long ago that you were standing at the bus stop for their first day of kindergarten. Let them continue to grow up with your help and guidance.
Have questions about event insurance? David Miller has answers. Miller, who writes the monthly, DID YOU KNOW? blog is The Plexus Groupe’s Vice President, Client Executive for Private Client Solutions. Miller can be reached by calling 846-307-6141.