Not too long ago, a lot of parents thought that allowing your kids and their friends to drink at your home was a good thing, because it prevented them from drinking elsewhere and from drinking and driving. The truth is that it does no such thing. Underage drinking parties at parents’ homes don’t stop kids from getting into trouble with alcohol. They simply give kids yet another place to drink. Research shows that adults providing alcohol to an underage drinking party doubles the likelihood of binge drinking among adolescents.
In San Diego County, law enforcement and the courts are beginning to drive that message home to parents through Social Host laws, which make it a crime to supply alcohol to kids on your property, unless they’re your kids. Two moms in Fallbrook pleaded guilty to violating the county’s Social Host ordinance after they were arrested by Sheriff’s deputies. A judge found that Sheri Windbigler failed to take “reasonable steps” to control minors from drinking on her property. An intoxicated teen left a party at her house and died in a drunk driving crash. Another Fallbrook mom, Deborah Gibney, hosted an underage drinking party at her home where teens got really drunk and one had to be taken to the emergency room for alcohol poisoning. Both moms were sentenced to three years’ probation, a $300 fine and a MADD victim impact class.
That’s not a very tough penalty, particularly in the case where a child got killed. But the most important thing about Social Host laws isn’t to slam parents and other adults but to change their attitudes. Most people are law-abiding, so if they hear about parents getting arrested for providing alcohol to underage drinking parties, they’ll think twice about doing it themselves.