“…it has become clear, that during adolescence…the brain is highly plastic and shaped by experience…Alcohol appears to interfere with the changes in circuitry that occur during learning.” –Dr. Aaron White, Duke University. Keep up to date with local and nationwide coverage of the underage drinking epidemic.
HAILEY • Loud music blasted the parents’ eardrums even before they opened the door of the home that sits just off the bike path running through Hailey.
Their faces turned ashen as they viewed the scene inside.
Several teens stood around the kitchen island, cheering one on as he guzzled liquor through a beer bong made out of a tube and funnel.
Others played a game of “High and Low,” with the loser downing a shot.
In the dining room, teens played beer pong, downing a shot each time the other team dropped a ball in one of their cups.
On the back porch, a couple of boys held another upside down over a keg as others pumped beer into him.
And in a darkened bedroom in the back of the house, other teens lamented what their alcohol-induced state might have led to.
“I really don’t want to know what happened,” moaned one teenage girl.
“I said, ‘No,’” muttered another.
“I wanted to use protection, but I guess I was so drunk I couldn’t,” added a boy.
These kids will get another chance, as this was a Reality Party staged for parents and not the real deal.
But the sobering look at teen parties, complete with the 35-year-old who trolled for underage girls on Facebook and the police officer who issued a citation to the homeowner for hosting an underage drinking party, was scripted by kids in Ventura, Calif., based on the parties they’d witnessed.
John Beranek, a former juvenile justice professional who now serves as an adult facilitator for Straight Forward Youth in South Dakota, introduced the concept at the Idaho State Prevention Conference that took place Thursday and Friday in Sun Valley.
Beranek enlisted 20 Hailey teens involved in Drug Free Youth in the reenactment. Blaine County School District counselors Julie Carney and Tod Gunter invited parents to tour the scene, along with professionals attending the conference.
The purpose of the reenactment: to help parents have more relevant and meaningful discussions with the kids about underage and binge drinking that takes place at parties.
“It makes me want to cry because the kids are out of control,” Robin Hayes told fellow parents as they discussed what they’d seen. “They’re young. They think they’re bulletproof.”
“As a parent it hurts to see this because in hindsight you think you should’ve done this or that,” said another.
Beranek consoled the parents that not every kid is involved in out-of-control bingeing.
“We don’t want you to go home and lock your kids up. But, as one of the kids said, maybe it’s time to have a community conversation about this,” he said.
School Resource Officer Chad Schiermeier told the parents that he dreads being called to a party where underage drinking is involved.
“I don’t want to have to call 911 because someone is passed out and not breathing,” he said.
A doctor and parents described various ways kids are getting high or otherwise harming themselves. A father described how his son had been interested in the details of a student who recently died playing the choking game.
“I could tell he was curious and wanted to try something new. Maybe the key is to give them something different that is positive,” he said.
Tommy Bailey, a Wood River High School junior who took part in the reenactment, said it was a learning experience.
“We all know what goes on at these parties to some extent — it was pretty crazy. But, somehow, this took it to a whole new level.”