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Saturday, June 5, 2010

Zero Tolerance Can Lead to 100% Stupidity

Sometimes administrators take the zero tolerance for alcohol policy way too far – creating ludicrous situations that only make teens disregard the underlying message.

David Hanson, a professor emeritus at the State University of New York at Potsdam, suggests the zealots take a look at this case.

"Carter Loar, a senior at Park View High School in Loudoun County, Virginia was suspended for ten days in February for violating the school's alcohol policy,” Hanson reports.

Carter's violation was using mouthwash at school. School officials confiscated the contraband. He was charged with violating the school's alcohol policy which prohibits the possession or use of alcohol on school property. Mouthwash contains a small amount of alcohol.

As part of his ten day suspension, Carter was required to attend a three day Substance Abuse Program sponsored by Loudoun County.

Mr. Loar was a victim of "zero tolerance," which is now all the rage, says Hanson. But what does such a zealous level of intolerance accomplish and what messages does it send our young people? It probably achieves about as much as the scare tactics characteristic of the temperance movement and is almost certainly counter-productive.

Those who promote such intolerance have lost touch with youth and are unrealistic and impractical. Their alcohol education messages are naïve at best, says Hanson.

I would say the same is true for sex education. Abstinence, while a noble goal, isn’t a realistic one. Teens are hormonal beings. They want what they want, when they want it. By putting a giant Just Say No message in their heads, we end up with teens who do everything but. . . because what they’re doing isn’t really sex as defined by what they are taught.

I don’t know about you, but as a parent I’d rather my kids have sex and take precautions than experiment with doing things in other ways.

Plug into your Kids’ Reality

The sobering voice needs to be parents who are plugged into their childrens' reality. My son is in 9th grade and goes to parties where there is alcohol. He tells me about it, and also assures me that he’s not drinking. He wouldn’t tell me there is alcohol at the parties, if he was drinking it. As for sex, I’m sure there’s some of that going on. But it hasn’t entered our household yet as far as I can tell. And he's had the condom lecture multiple times.

So what’s the real message here? When you forbid something, and your reasons for forbidding it are to put it plainly lame as hell, the forbidden is a lot more seductive. If you are talking to your child and keeping an eye on texts, emails, phone conversations and most important in the chauffeur years, listening to what’s being said in the back of your car, you can have a very positive affect.

Forbidding a teenager from doing anything doesn’t work unless you lock them up. Helping them understand the reasons why alcohol is harmful to their bodies and their minds is much more effective.

Also get your child involved in activities. I’ve got a soccer player and an Its Academic budding star. Neither of them will be able to take drugs or drink and continue those activities. So if I see a change, I will know what’s going on.

As for Dr. Hanson, he’s a voice of reason in a world that’s gone way too far on absolutes. Check out his Alcohol Problems and Solutions web site. www.alcoholinformation.org

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