Baltimore County's private Maryvale Preparatory School for Girls -- taking seriously parents' concerns about children drinking -- held a drug and alcohol awareness program last night that was mandatory not only for students who want to attend their prom but for parents as well.
The meeting was the brainchild of a parent group fed up with other parents who provide minors with alcohol on the theory that it's all right for youngsters to drink as long as they're not driving.
The organizing group wanted to teach minors it is possible to have fun without drinking or doing drugs.
"Parents play a crucial role, not only as role models but also as the people who set the guidelines," Michael M. Gimbel, director of the Baltimore County Office of Substance Abuse, told the more than 100 parents and students at the meeting. "And what we've been finding in recent years is that the limits on alcohol weren't there."
Mr. Gimbel praised the Roman Catholic school in the Green Spring Valley and the parents who helped organize the meeting, saying that reaching adults is his office's most difficult task.
After watching a video highlighting some of the violent behavior that can accompany drinking -- including riots, fights and date rape -- students left their parents and regrouped to hear young, recovering alcoholics talk about their experiences with drugs and alcohol.
Rob Cramer, 24, whose sister, Meredith, is a student at the school, told the students that when he was in college and a party started at 10 p.m., he was already drunk at 8.
"I did a lot of stupid things," he said. "But I came to a point in my life when I got sick and tired of waking up in these situations."
Parents stayed with Mr. Gimbel to discuss their own concerns -- among them the difficulties they have making their children understand the dangers of alcohol.
"They can get themselves into situations that they can't get themselves out of," one mother said, who added that she was particularly disturbed by the video's mention of date rape. "We have to emphasize that," she said.
Mr. Gimbel said he hoped the Maryvale meeting would be a catalyst. He plans to propose such mandatory meetings for public schools in the county.
"We think it's a great idea -- I think it shows a mix between school authority and at the same time, making parents come together for education," Mr. Gimbel said.