Oregon cracks down on adults who allow teen drinking parties
Oregon voted to approve fines this week
Oregon village leaders have joined an increasing number of Wisconsin municipalities making it harder for teenagers to hold underage drinking parties, plugging a gap in the law that some say creates tragedies.
State law already prohibits underage drinking and bans adults from buying alcohol for minors.
Oregon leaders voted unanimously this week to start punishing adults who furnish a location where teens can drink, with fines ranging between $100 and $2,000.
"Most parents in Wisconsin are good, but we know impulse control is pretty shoddy in teenagers," said Julia Sherman, coordinator of the Wisconsin Alcohol Policy Project at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. "Often, just making it available is enough to start a party that could have really tragic consequences."
Oregon became the 18th municipality statewide to approve such an ordinance, all of which have come within the past five years.
Parents said the new rules should comfort the community during the impending prom and graduation seasons, when underage parties are at their peak.
"As a parent myself, it would make me feel safer to know there's a big penalty out there and the community has found that activity unacceptable," said Maureen Busalacchi, executive director of Health First Wisconsin, an organization that advocates for a reduction in alcohol abuse across Dane County. "Every year, you hear of some tragedy with alcohol and underage kids, and that's really what we're trying to prevent."
The potential for hefty fines concerned one Oregon high school student, who said the ordinance was too broad and could end up doing more harm.
"If teens are going to drink, might as well do it at a place where the parents know it's going on and they can stop people from driving home," Brittany Kern-Osthoff said, adding that fines for those parents might create more unsupervised parties.
Kern-Osthoff said her parents wouldn't ever hold such a party, but added her friends also don't agree with the village's campaign of "Parents Who Host Lose The Most."
"The whole 'Parents who host lose the most' -- it's kind of a joke," she said. "People think of it as kind of a joke."
Sherman said the ordinance will not target "good parents" whose children make the decision to host a party on their own. The rules aim to punish those parents and adult siblings who turn a blind eye toward drinking parties.
"If you provide a location, have alcohol there, and didn't take reasonable steps to prevent a party, you're a host," she said.
Copyright 2012 by Channel 3000. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.