The annual "graduation letter" from the county's law enforcement officials has gone out to remind parents to follow the law and refrain from serving alcohol to people under 21 as they host gatherings to honor their high school graduates.
Now in its 11th year, the mailing is a collaborative project of law enforcement agency heads, the local nonprofit organization Partners In Prevention, and Alpena Public Schools.
"Graduation season is upon us, and you are among the families planning a memorable celebration," the letter states. "As area law enforcement leaders, we want to ensure that you also stay safe, so we would like to remind you that underage drinking is not only against the law, but it's also dangerous."
Parents are referred to an information sheet prepared and enclosed by Partners In Prevention, whose staff and volunteers stuff and mail the letters.
"Check out the accurate and important information for parents and graduates about the risks of alcohol use and the dangers of "synthetic" drugs," the law enforcement leaders advise. "The flyer includes a reminder to safely store prescription medicines, especially during your open house parties, to help prevent theft or misuse."
Michigan State Police Alpena Post Commander First Lt. Mike Hahn, Alpena Police Chief Joel Jett, and Alpena County Sheriff Steven Kieliszewski rotate responsibility for the letter. This year, Hahn printed the letters, got signatures from his counterparts, and will cover the mailing costs. Partners In Prevention works with Alpena Public Schools to obain the mailing labels. All agencies are members of the Alpena County Prevention Policy Board, a group that meets quarterly to address substance abuse issues and solutions.
"Over the decade that parents of graduating seniors have been receiving this annual mailing, more and more research has shown that alcohol can cause permanent damage to the adolescent brain," said Carlene Przykucki of Partners In Prevention. "From a public health perspective, the wisdom of the 21-years minimum drinking age has been validated. We're pleased to facilitate this longstanding project that combines the efforts of law enforcement and the school in building awareness and parental support to prevent underage drinking, especially during this high risk reason of graduation parties."
An online resource at socialhost.drugfree.org/state/michigan gives parents an interactive tool to see their legal liability for providing alcohol to minors. It also has information on teen brain research that parents may find interesting.
"Many parents mistakenly think it's okay to let their underage kids drink at home," she said. "That's just not true. In addition to being physically harmful, it's a violation of the law; and there are penalities for breaking the law."
Families not in the Alpena Public Schools District can request a copy of the letter insert, "Parents: Help Your Teens Party Right at Graduation" by calling Partners In Prevention at 356-2880 or 1-800-354-2880, or e-mail your request to firstname.lastname@example.org. The flyer points out the risks alcohol poses for underage drinkers, gives facts about alcohol poisoning, and encourages parents to discuss the topic with teens.