The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, April 16, 2010

Students watch drunk driving “accident”

Are high school alcohol programs effective?

Sirens blare. Ambulances descend. The Jaws of Life are employed. Has a terrible accident happened at Minuteman Career and Technical High School?

Thankfully not, and student members of the Health Occupations department want to keep it that way. On Tuesday at lunchtime, they staged a dramatic mock accident with the help of Lincoln and Lexington police and fire services. Junior and senior students were invited to the front of the school to watch emergency personnel attempt a dramatic rescue of a student trapped in a car. Sadly, the (actor) passenger was dead, and the (actor) driver was arrested, handcuffed and taken away in a police car.

It’s all part of a senior project to promote drunk driving awareness. It began with a letter sent to parents explaining the program, allowing them to exclude their student if preferred, and offering a contract stating that if a student is unable to drive due to drinking, the parent will come and pick them up. The return of the signed contract made a student eligible for drawings for free prom tickets, a donated limo ride, or tux rental.

After the dramatization, a discussion was held in the cafeteria, and members of the counseling staff were on hand. As prom season approaches, will all this make a difference?

No progress over ten years

At a recent Parent Coffee, CCHS Principal Peter Badalament expressed discouragement that years of forums and discussions have not lowered the level of drinking among high school students. In the 2010 Youth Risk Survey, 75% admitted drinking, 50% within the last 30 days, and 25% had binged (drunk five or more drinks) within the past month. “These numbers have remained the same over the past ten years,” he said.

CCHS is holding role-playing exercises simulating a courtroom in which a drunk driver is being charged with homicide, and is also implementing an online program called Alcohol.edu. This is in addition to alcohol education that takes place in health classes and the school-run drivers education, in which students wear “drunk glasses” to simulate drinking impairment.

Badalament quoted a student who summed up the impact of drinking education, “There’s nothing you can tell us we haven’t already heard.” The Principal’s advice was, “Parents still matter a great deal” and need to set boundaries. In a later meeting, Badalament expanded on those thoughts, “This is a community health problem. The solution resides with parents.” He said the parent–to-parent outreach is a must, “Pick up the phone. Don’t be afraid of what your kid will say.” In addition, “Have that conversation with your kid you don’t think you need to have.”

He notes that a contract can be a good tool for conversation, and points to Safe Homes, a one-time parent group that promoted parent contracts not to allow under-aged drinking at home. “Maybe we should try something like that again, where parents reach out to parents,” he concluded. ∆


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