Park City High School warns parents about student parties
October 18, 2016
It's no secret that partying is one of the favorite pastimes of high school students looking to blow off steam after a big exam or a stressful week of school.
But officials at Park City High School are asking parents to make sure their children aren't partying dangerously. Principal Bob O'Connor said the school is seeing a troubling new trend of students renting properties through nightly rental companies like VRBO and trashing them at large-scale parties flush with drugs and alcohol.
School leaders have learned of a handful of such parties, and O'Connor is certain there are more the school is not hearing about. Recently, a student came forward with information about one planned for Oct. 29 that had a guest list of more than 70 students.
The trend is particularly troubling in light of the student drug problem that has become clear in recent months. O'Connor said the responsibility for the safety of students must start with parents, who need to do more to make sure their children aren't going to those kinds of parties.
"When your son or daughter says they're going to spend the night at somebody's house, that should probably be followed up on and confirmed by the parents," he said. "If your kid is going out at night, you need to know where they're going and who they're with."
Some parents, though, know about the parties but do nothing, O'Connor said. That's one of the most concerning aspects. He said parents mistakenly believe their children aren't at risk of hurting themselves, but that kind of thinking can lead down a dangerous path.
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And until parents stop condoning even the slightest amount of drug or alcohol use, there's very little the schools can do to help students see the dangers in their behavior, he said.
"They say, 'It's just marijuana,' or 'At least they're being safe and heading to a safe house.' But that little bit of condoning leads to much bigger things and gives kids permission to experiment to the next level."
Sam Walsh, intervention counselor at PCHS, said research shows that any amount of parent permissiveness about drugs and alcohol can have negative consequences. Children of parents who don't set clear zero-tolerance guidelines see the ambiguity as permission.
"One of the problems I see is parents sometimes say, 'Oh, you can drink,' or 'Oh, you can just smoke pot,'" she said. "Even if the parent says they don't want them doing other things, because they allow one of the substances, the teens take that as, 'I can do these other things.' It's a mixed message."
She added that parents can't do too much to protect their children from drugs and alcohol. They need to have clear conversations with their children from an early age about illegal substances and ask them regularly about what they're seeing in school and with their peers.
They should also get to know the parents of their children's friends, Walsh said. Teens could also use mixed message about drugs and alcohol from another adult as permission to experiment.
"Know who their parents are," she said. "I think that's critical. I know I've heard over the years from parents who have reached out to other parents, and they sometimes haven't been met with the same sentiment from the other family, or the other family became upset. That's important information for a parent to know."