LEWISTOWN - As the end of the school year and prom season quickly approach, the Mifflin County Regional Police Department says now is the time to talk candidly to teens about the dangers of underage drinking.
"It's more prevalent during prom and graduation season," said Cpl. Robert L. Haines Jr., Mifflin County School District school resource officer.
Haines said the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports 75 percent of teenagers admit to drinking alcohol by the end of 12th grade. While underage drinkers drink less frequently than adults, a national survey by the U.S. Department of Justice says 90 percent of teens binge drink when they consume alcohol.
"As a law enforcement officer and parent, I ask you to talk to your kids about underage drinking. Tell them you are worried about their safety," Haines said in a press release. "Let them know drinking too much at once, especially in first-time drinkers, can lead to high blood-alcohol levels that can cause unconciousness and death."
In the release, Haines encourages parents to provide students with strategies to navigate peer pressure and resist getting into vehicles of friends who have been drinking.
"Tell (children) you will be there to get them, no questions asked, if they're in a situation that becomes dangerous or uncomfortable," he said.
Haines said the school district will have extra event staff supervising on prom day at Mifflin County High School. He encourages parents to make sure children are attending after-prom events that are alcohol-free and supervised.
According to the press release, an underage drinking citation can be issued to any student under the age of 21, regardless of measured blood-alcohol content. Offenders face fines up to $500 and license suspension, police said. Citations are also issued to adults who provide alcohol to children - even their own. Penalties include fines up to $2,500 for the first violation and each subsequent violation, per person being served, and up to a year in jail, police said.
"Parents need to think about the real consequences this so-called 'rite of passage' has attached to it," Haines said. "Over the years, I have worked with so many young adults whom are trying to get underage drinking arrests removed from their history because it is keeping them out of colleges or from getting good jobs with security clearances."
Students from MCHS have been hanging more than 500 posters and signs in the junior and senior high schools promoting positive outcomes for making good decisions about alcohol use. The posters are provided by The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board.
To report underage drinking parties - planned or in progress - call the 1-888-UNDER-21 hotline, administered in partnership with the Pennsylvania State Police, Pennsylvania Commissioner on Crime and Delinquency, the Office of Juvenile Justive and Delinquency Prevention with funding from the Enforcing Underage Drinking Laws program, Pennsylvanians Against Underage Drinking, PA DUI Association and Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board.
"Think about the future," Haines urged. "Don't put yourself in a situation where something that you do now will affect you the rest of your life. You don't have to drink alcohol or do drugs to enjoy yourself and have a good time."