Underage drinking and social hosting are issues The Wilkin County Youth and Community Prevention Coalition board, formerly known as ATOD, are trying to combat.
The city of Breckenridge’s social host ordinance states criminal penalties will be imposed on people who host events or gatherings where people under 21 years of age possess or consume alcohol, regardless of whether the person hosting or allowing the event or gathering supplied the alcohol.
The coalition discussed this and the results from the Minnesota Student Survey data at their monthly meeting Thursday in Breckenridge, Minn.
The survey is given every three years to students regarding a variety of risk and protective factors. Young people are asked questions about their activities, opinions, behaviors and experiences. The questions cover issues including substance abuse, school climate, violence and safety concerns, healthy eating and more.
The most recent data available is from 2010, and a sampling of the questions were shared by Coordinator Naomi Miranowski. Results from sixth, ninth and 12th graders were examined.
“It’s really interesting reading, seeing what the stats are showing us,” she said.
Some numbers that provoked discussion included how 50 percent of females in both ninth and 12th grade, who used tobacco in the previous 30 days, purchased it from a gas station or convenience store, which could mean they aren’t being carded. The data should be used in concert with data from other sources, Miranowski cautioned, as law enforcement does tobacco compliance checks regularly in the community.
Another number board members were surprised to see was 23 percent of 12th grade respondents said they had engaged in binge drinking in the previous two weeks.
Board member and Breckenridge Detective Sgt. Natalie Butenhoff said that number wasn’t surprising. Every weekend they write DWI citations, she said, and minor in possession citations seem to stem from social hosting.
“We have a DWI every weekend,” she said. “Almost every Friday and Saturday.”
“They don’t choose to drink and drive, it’s a lifestyle,” said Rothsay Principal Jamie Goebel. “It’s a lifestyle that, unfortunately, parents and adults choose to model.”
Wilkin County Commissioner Stephanie Miranowski agreed, and said it’s been that way for a long time and until parents change their attitudes it will continue.
“Natalie and I have been here (in the coalition) from the very beginning, and we see the same problem,” Miranowski said. “It has not changed, and it will continue as long as our perception is it’s OK to drink. The parents say it’s OK to drink as long as you don’t get caught, and they provide it for the kids. We’re still serving at graduation parties, at first communions, at confirmations, because it’s the adults that want to do the drinking.”
She said she does not believe alcohol should be served to adults at a child’s function.
“It’s a major problem in the community, the social hosting,” she said.
Butenhoff, who also sits on the domestic violence board, said coping skills need to be taught to help students make better decisions.
“Whether you choose to drink or not is part of your coping skills,” she said.
Underage drinking on prom night does not appear to be an issue in Breckenridge, Butenhoff said, due to prevention measures by school administration, the coalition and law enforcement.
Positive results from the survey included that most students feel their neighborhoods and communities are safe, and the majority of students feel drug and alcohol use is not a problem at their schools.
The board also discussed the pros and cons of continuing with the mock crash and court program that’s done at the high school level. The program shows the risks of drinking and driving. Comments included students aren’t engaged in the presentation and don’t feel connected to it. An executive committee will be formed to determine if the program should continue, be added to or be replaced with something else.
Naomi Miranowski also spoke about the local SADD groups forming at high schools in the county. There will be a SADD launch party Saturday night, where the different groups will get together to meet for the first time and watch a special midnight movie. The SADD groups are working on a community project called “Project Blanket,” where they are assembling fleece blankets to be donated to Wilkin County Social Services clients, Kinship clients and others in need.
The group also reviewed the Day of Hope event in the Twin Towns, and the Hidden in Plain Sight program, which was held at Rothsay Public School earlier this month.