High school football games are typically a family affair – an opportunity for teens and parents to come out and support young football hopefuls playing the sport they love. So when local officials noticed that parents and other adults were drinking and partying in the school parking lot before the games, the Indiana-based Warrick County Communities That Care (CTC) Coalition knew they had to take action.
The Drug-Free Communities grantee and CADCA member acted fast, developing a public attendance policy that prohibits alcohol on the high school premises.
It was actually the city’s police chief who initiated the policy. As a parent of a high school football player, he noticed that adults were tailgating before games. He brought up the issue at a coalition meeting and the school adopted a policy. The coalition is now in the process of creating banners and other promotional items to post at the school before the new year and football season begins.
“When we wrote the DFC, we knew we would work on reviewing school policies,” said coalition coordinator Margery Gianopoulos. “We already had a rapport with school administration. School cooperation has been wonderful with pretty much everything our coalition has been interested in working with. It went exactly how it was supposed to go.”
The school already had policies in place prohibiting drug and tobacco use on school premises, Gianopoulos said, but no policy on alcohol use. They conducted an environmental scan of their schools and one at a high school football game.
“The culture was about adults tailgating and while they were not getting drunk, drinking shouldn’t be happening. The coalition thought adults would not drink in a place where there are youth,” Gianopoulos said. “When there is no written policy or consequence, we can’t ask them to put the bottles away.”
Gianopoulos explained that the tailgating situation not only created some potential dangers, it sent the wrong message to young people. “When youth see parents drinking, it makes it seem to youth that it is OK to drink,” Gianopoulos said, adding that the coalition is now also looking at making local parks alcohol- and smoke-free.
One extra benefit of the new public attendance policy is that it’s general enough to cover alcohol as well as vaping and laser pointer use for all ages. The consequences for an adult who doesn’t abide by the new policy include a trespassing ticket.
This policy is one of many efforts the coalition is involved in to create a safer environment for youth and to reduce underage drinking. After surveying local parents, they found that parents needed help talking to their kids about the dangers of underage drinking so they utilized the “Talk They Hear You” campaign to help parents have smart discussions with their children and teens about drinking. “Talk They Hear You,” developed by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, provides talking points and tools for parents and caregivers so they can start talking to their children early—as early as 9 years old—about the dangers of alcohol use. In fact, the coalition surveyed the teens and found that 76 percent of them want adults to talk to them about the dangers of alcohol.