Lawrence town hall meeting to discuss underage drinking

It’s a town hall setting aimed at getting parents to talk to their children about the dangers of underage drinking. And this Friday in downtown Lawrence, parents and other adults can get tips about how to start that conversation.

“Parents really underestimate the influence they have on their kids’ decisions whether to drink or not,” said Jen Jordan, a member of the Draw the Line Lawrence coalition. “Kids really say that their parents are the number one influence.”

The Lunch and Learn Event sponsored by the coalition, which was formerly the New Tradition Coalition, begins at noon Friday at The Granada, 1020 Mass. The first 150 people through the doors at the free event will receive a free box lunch and handbook from Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

Jordan, director of prevention for DCCCA Inc., said similar town hall meetings were held this spring across the country. The Lawrence one is typically every two years, but coalition members decided to move it downtown this year in hopes to attract a larger crowd.

The event will include a panel of law enforcement officers, medical experts and two parents with children who have graduated from high school.

Also, experts will speak about treatment of adolescents for alcohol and drug use, and two high school seniors will discuss the pressures they face.

Jordan said it’s critical for parents and influential adults to speak to children about drinking because, according to national statistics from MADD, one-third of eighth-grade students have tried alcohol and one-fifth of all teenagers binge drink, even though only 1 in 100 parents believe their children binge drink.

Teen alcohol use kills about 6,000 people annually. In a 2011 Communities that Care survey, 46 percent of seniors at Lawrence and Free State high schools reported drinking alcohol at least once in the preceding month and 26 percent reported binge drinking at least once in the two weeks prior.

Jordan said national research has shown college students are less likely to binge drink if their parents talked to them about the dangers of underage drinking in the year before they went to college.

“No matter what sector of the community they are from, everybody can draw the line,” Jordan said. “We encourage people to draw the line against alcohol and drug use and youth using alcohol and drugs.”

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