Saturday, May 23, 2015

Prom season means helping teens with good decisions - By Michelle Libby

With prom season at its peak, local law enforcement and Cumberland County Underage Drinking Task Force came together Tuesday morning at the Westbrook Public Safety building to encourage teens not to drive impaired. 
“Adults have so much to say on the issue, but kids are living it every day,” said Hannah Smith, a senior student ambassador from Westbrook High School. Drugs and alcohol are a huge issue for teens and Smith as well as local law enforcement and other pro-active groups reiterated that during the press conference. 

The goal is to give the students times filled with happy memories. “We are all dedicated and passionately care about youth,” said Jo Morrissey, 21 Reasons Coalition. To make sure our kids make good decisions, discuss their plans, don’t be shy to ask for help from other parents and be on hand for parties, Morrissey said. She encouraged parents to back one another up, call and share concerns to keep each teen safe. “Let’s make it a night to remember for all the right reasons,” she said. 
At a class meeting, Smith said the administration of her school went over logistics of the prom and warned them not to jeopardize their futures. “Graduation is in five weeks. They reminded us of how hard we have worked and that college admissions can be rescinded, jobs can be lost. It’s really a gamble students are taking,” Smith said. 

Teens who don’t believe they will be caught by the police are two times more likely to do so, said Morrissey. Those who think they won’t be caught by their parents are five times as likely to be caught.
“It’s an historic problem ever since proms began. Now there’s more publicity around drug and alcohol abuse,” said Windham Police sergeant Bill Andrew. Parents who think they’re helping by hosting drinking parties at their homes, are not. That’s just condoning bad behavior, said Andrew. “Be involved. Provide a safe alternative by not providing alcohol or providing a place for drinking alcohol,” he added. 

Police details will be out starting this weekend. Windham will be working with Cumberland Police Department, Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office and the State Police, utilizing everything in their power to stop underaged drinking. 

“We are attacking the issue at 360 degrees,” said incoming Windham Police chief Kevin Schofield.
If parents or teens would like to report parties that are planned, Andrew recommends they call 892-2525 and leave a message or contact the Regional Communication Center. 

“Together we make the difference,” said Westbrook Chief Janine Roberts. Businesses that are typical prom stops like florists, tux shops, hair salons and limo companies have agreed to post the tip flyers to remind teens to make the good decisions. 

“The risk does not out way the consequences,” said Smith.

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