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Celebrate Safely
by Kim Green-Spangler
June is the time when students across the nation celebrate the ending of the school year, some the ending of their K-12 career and the beginning of this next phase of life. A true cause for celebration! Proms, graduation parties, beginning and/or end of summer flings and various summer bashes will occur in every city from the east to the west coast, but they should be celebrated responsibly.

According to the U.S Department of Transportation, on a typical prom weekend 48 teenagers are killed in automobile accidents, over 5,000 teenagers are injured and over 40% of the deaths will be alcohol related, with speeding, multiple passengers and distracted driving rounding out the statistics.

Carol Copeland Thomas founded Student Safety Month in June to assist young adults in making safe choices while celebrating proms, graduations, and parties where alcohol, drugs, and questionable behavior may present itself. Unfortunately Ms. Thomas has had personal experience with the perils that face partying graduates through the loss of her son due to poor choices a mere six days after graduating. Ms. Thomas' intent is to save lives through education in the dangers students may face and alternatives that can result in much better outcomes for all involved.

Don't Drink and Drive

People have been hearing this phrase for decades, yet accidents and deaths due to alcohol continue to occur. In 1984 all 50 states made it illegal for people under the age of 21 to drink, yet students seem to always be able to acquire alcoholic beverages at will. One of the ways that Student Safety Month is recognized by the Town of Milton, Massachusetts is by staging a mock car crash. The town utilizes real ambulances, police, a hearse and a hysterical mother as part of the "accident." It is staged for each grade and the school decides which grades will witness the accident. The mock crash is supposed to be an eye-opener with shock-value for high school students who often do not believe that something like that can happen to them. It comes complete with graphic dramatization, and a mock student fatality to allow students to receive the full impact of an accident scene when everything does not end up fine. MADD (Mothers against Drunk Drivers) also stage such events in various cities across the nation during prom season.

Without the Alcohol and Other Temptations

Most towns are on heightened alert during prom season to curtail drunk driving by making arrests, fining hotels and arresting parents and teenagers who secure rooms for after prom bashes, and arresting adults who supply teenagers with alcohol or allow them to consume alcohol on their property.

Organizations like MADD and SADD, school districts, parent groups and individuals have been sponsoring "dry" alternatives to traditional "after prom" parties. Some schools host "lock-ins" where students stay for the entire night and dance, play games, and attend raffles. Other schools host alternative after prom parties where students are allowed to leave, but cannot return after they have left, while others allow students to sign out if they choose, and parents can call the school the next day to find out what time a student left if they choose. Why do students stay at these alternative parties? Well, some stay because they do not want to be involved with the hassle that comes with alcohol consumption, but other stay because of the perks. Many parents and school officials contact local businesses and ask for donations. These donations are often primo prizes and most raffles are held at the end of the evening (or morning as the case is typically) and attendance is mandatory to claim a prize. Some of the more fabulous prizes have been luggage, spa days, computers and laptops.

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Making Other Arrangements

In an effort to cut down on the potential for accidents, some school districts across the country have made transportation arrangements and made it mandatory that students ride school-provided buses to and from the prom, which in the long-run could save lives and expenses as limos would not be needed or for the entire evening, or at all. Parents in areas where transportation is not provided frequently rent limousines for after-prom festivities and many limousine companies now enforce a no-alcohol rule for occupants under the legal drinking age.

Parents are also advised to be kept in the loop for prom, after-prom and graduation festivities. It is suggested that they ask what the plans are, where they will be, to establish a curfew and to wait up for their teenagers until they return home. Parents are also encouraged to establish a "call for help" system with no questions asked. This allows students to phone home for a ride so they know they do not have to get in the car with someone who may be intoxicated or heading to a location they do not want to go.

The end of the school year and graduation is a time for celebration. With a great deal of communication and some precaution, parents, school officials and students can plan for a prom season that will have lasting pleasant memories and not be hangover laden and full of stuff that nightmares stem from.

For more information, parents, students, and educators can visit www.tellcarole.com/studentsafety.html. Let's keep our kids safe.

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