Wisconsin officials try to curb underage drinking by cracking down on parentsWith high school prom around the corner and graduation coming up, more communities in Wisconsin are casting a wider net to curb underage drinking.
By: By Shamane Mills, Wisconsin Public Radio, Superior Telegram
With high school prom around the corner and graduation coming up, more communities in Wisconsin are casting a wider net to curb underage drinking. They're going after parents and other adults who hold parties, using what are called "social host ordinances."
Wisconsin has laws designed to prevent underage consumption and possession. But they don't always address how those under age 21 often get alcohol, says Julia Sherman. She coordinates the Wisconsin Alcohol Policy Project at the UW-Madison Law School.
"Simply punishing youth won't reduce underage drinking,” Sherman said. “We need to get at the adults who are providing the alcohol or the locations where youth are drinking alcohol."
There are 18 communities in Wisconsin that have social host ordinances. Most specify that the person responsible for purchasing the alcohol - or the hotel room where it's consumed - don't have to be present to be liable.
"Most of the ordinances I've seen have forfeitures between $1,000 and $5,000,” Sherman said. “That's a big chunk of change for any family."
The village of Oregon passed a social host ordinance this month. Village president Steve Staton is a former school alcohol and drug counselor. He's heard from upset parents who kids attended parties at someone else's home.
"And in both cases their kids became extremely inebriated and needed medical attention,” Staton said. “And they said, what do? The kids go places and parents supply it."
The village ordinance was approved unanimously in Oregon and Staton says police are supportive. There has been resistance in other communities. The Fond du Lac County board took up a similar ordinance twice before it passed.