LYNN — Last week, the Lynn School Department’s Parent Prom Initiative was held at Lynn English. The only problem was it was the same night the boys basketball team was playing in the state semifinal at TD Garden.
Needless to say, the crowd in the English auditorium was sparse.
But fear not. Those who missed it will have another shot Wednesday night when Lynn Classical will host another session. And Mike Geary, the director of health and physical education for Lynn Public Schools, says the forum will be open to all public high school parents in the city, and admission is free.
The school department partners with Girls Inc., and the Lynn Police to give parents a pre-prom lesson on the dangers their children can face if they mix driving with drugs or alcohol.
Lynn Police Officer Oren Wright will explain the pre-prom Breathalyzer all students will be given (those who do not pass will not be allowed to the prom, and their parents will be called to take them home), the police also show a short film about how quickly auto mishaps can develop, especially if there’s alcohol involved.
Also, Lynn attorney Judith A. Wayne, who has been speaking at the forum for the past four years, will educate parents on the stringency of the social host laws. Those laws hold adults in the household accountable if underage guests — such as those who might attend a post-prom party — are found to have consumed the alcohol that may have played a part in an auto accident in their homes. And she says that beyond the cost of a potential tragedy, the ramifications of violating the social host law are enormous.
“The consequences are severe,” she said. “I’ve seen people lose their homes because they’ve been found liable under the law. There have been jobs lost. And if your children are going to college, and they’re getting any kind of money, that’ll be taken away too.”
Both Geary and Wayne say that it’s important for parents to understand their responsibilities when it comes to making sure that any underage students under their control (which, Wayne said, means any minor in the house at any time) follow the laws. They also stress that despite any efforts on their parts to be the “cool parents,” their job in these situations is to be vigilant and visible.
Lena Crowley, director of middle and high school programs at Girls Inc., said that it appears as if parents take the message seriously.
“Last year, when we were cleaning up after one of the two nights, someone came up to us and asked if we could have one of these every month. I think parents are looking for information that will reinforce their roles as parents.”
Geary said the program came about 10 years ago and that while it has been tweaked along the way, it basically follows the same format.
“It’s just kind of a reminder for parents to stress to their kids to take it slow this time of the year,” he said.
“And we’re fortunate that since we’ve begun the program, we haven’t had the type of tragedy you’ve seen in other places,” Geary said. “Some parents the other night at English said this was an eye-opening experience for them, and that it made them realize they had to change some of their habits. That’s nice to see.”
The program got its start under Geary’s predecessor, Dennis Thompson, who is now an assistant principal at Classical. Wayne became involved through her association with Girls Inc.’s Part of the Solution program.
“Girls Inc. does a ton of the work for this,” Geary said. “Everyone I’ve worked with has been terrific.”
Teens from Girls Inc. will also put on skits that, the organization hopes, will help parents navigate the often-choppy waters of how to approach their children to talk about the issues the forum addresses.
As for how parents have reacted in the past, Dana Altman, community coordinator of substance use prevention for Girls Inc., says it’s been overwhelmingly positive.
“I’m not a parent,” Altman said. “But I’d imagine parents don’t want to think that something like (a tragedy) could ever happen to them. But this is more prevention education. We hope that it sparks some curiosity on their part, and that the information will make them equipped to deal with it.”