Parents meet to curb underage drinking

April 22, 2014 (DOWNERS GROVE, Ill.)

The hope is to better inform parents and teenagers ahead of the prom and graduation season.

Not only is it prom season, but April is also National Alcohol Awareness Month, so at Downers Grove South High School, there will be a town hall meeting Tuesday night, and beside hearing of the consequences of underage drinking, parents may hear some surprising statistics.

Prom signs line the hallways of Downers Grove South High School. This weekend is the big event and with that comes the conversation about underage drinking.

Student assistance coordinator Diana Benoist and her counterpart Keith Bullock at Downers Grove North say the key to prevention is focusing on the positive rather than the consequences of drinking.

"Prevention is partly about reinforcing good choices students already make, so really trying to educate that most students are not engaging in illegal behaviors," she said.

Benoist says while there is a perception that most students engage in underage drinking, surveys show the majority of students at South and North are not binge drinkers. It is information that will be passed along at Tuesday night's town hall meeting.

"Students want information that is direct and clear, and information they can use, so not trying to scare them into doing things, so giving them the actual data about how many students are actually using is really beneficial for them," Bullock said.

While much of the discussion will remain positive, the consequences are drinking will not be ignored.

"We know that substance use, alcohol use, impacts the developing brain over time and makes changes to brain," said Bullock.

And the legal consequences of drinking will be discussed by Downers Grove officer Russ Rau. He works full-time in Downers Grove North High School, and will attend his school's prom and check to make sure no one is drinking. He believes community-wide efforts to combat underage drinking has made his job easier.

"The numbers to me have gone down," he said. "Now, are they still doing it? You know they're still doing it. I mean, everybody's going to experiment, but I just think that we're more vigilant."

Besides police officers and experts, there will also be some students that will be participating in the town hall meeting. Everybody in the community is invited to attend.

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