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Parents agree not to serve alcohol at teen parties


Like other parents at Westminster High School last night, Virginia Shipley pledged not to serve alcohol to teen-agers nor to allow them to bring beer, wine or liquor into her home.

Ms. Shipley, the mother of four adolescent daughters, agreed to those stipulations by signing a "parent contract" -- something school officials hope more parents will sign.

The names of parents adhering to the contract will be made available to other parents so they may screen parties their children hope to attend.

"I just can't believe there are parents who would serve alcohol to teen-agers at parties," Ms. Shipley said. "We've always had parties but we've never allowed alcohol."

Ms. Shipley was one of about 50 parents who attended a forum, "Keeping Our Teens On The Right Track: The Peer Pressure of Teen Drinking," in the high school's cafeteria last night.

"We like to think in Carroll County that we don't have the problems of drugs and alcohol," said Principal Sherri-Le W. Bream.

But those problems do exist. She said a survey of county high school students showed some startling results.

For instance, one of three students has used drugs. Two of three students, she said, has had five drinks at one time.

School officials have noticed an increase in alcohol and drug use in the past few years. Teachers such as Diane Cooper say they hear students speak more frequently about alcohol-related parties and other events on the weekends.

Forum speakers -- Carroll County State's Attorney Thomas Hickman, Detective Sgt. Stephen Reynolds of the Maryland State Police, and Sgt. J. E. Burton of the Carroll County Narcotics Task Force -- reiterated the problems of alcohol and drugs among the county's youth.

They also spoke of enforcement efforts -- before and after parties.

Mr. Hickman said "flier parties," in which fliers are passed out promoting parties with kegs of beer or other alcohol, have become popular.

He assured parents that his office aggressively pursues adults who provide alcohol to minors.

Peter B. McDowell, director of Carroll's secondary schools, spoke about the effectiveness of the district's education and intervention programs.

He said the number of students suspended for alcohol and drug-related offenses has dropped in recent years.

Ms. Bream handed out fliers that listed signs of substance abuse, specifying personality, physical and behavioral changes, and of excuses kids use to cover up chemical use, such as "spending the night at a friend's house" or "got a drink spilled on me."

Sergeant Burton told parents why teen-agers drink:

"They're bored or they want to get high," he said. "They don't drink because they're thirsty."

After they've gotten used to alcohol, they turn to drugs. The most popular drug in Carroll County, he said, is marijuana.

Parents who suspect their children are drinking alcohol or using drugs should search their rooms when the kids are out.

"It's not that you don't trust your kids," he said. "Do it for your own peace of mind."

Ms. Cooper, co-chairman of the Class of 1994 Parent Boosters, one of the forum's sponsors, said she hoped the forum gave parents an awareness of the moral and legal issues involved in serving alcohol to teen-agers in their homes.

"Hopefully, we can prevent something tragic from happening," she said. "It's really something the community needs to be aware of."

The other sponsor of the event was the school's Parent Advisory Committee.

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