Groups address 'risky behavior'

School officials, local agencies look at parents to help curb students' actions

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— Steamboat Springs High School officials say a growing trend in underage drinking, vandalism and other "risky behavior" by students could be curbed if parents were enlisted to help.

But school representatives and law enforcement officers say there are some parents in Steamboat Springs who are part of the problem.

"We need to get parents to be parents and not their best friend," Steamboat Springs Director of Public Safety Services J.D. Hays said of parents who are throwing parties for teens where alcohol is served.

A round-table discussion was held Wednesday with representatives of community agencies to drum up some ideas on raising awareness of students' risky behavior and to help parents address the problem.

"Don't get me wrong, we have some great students," said Steamboat Springs High School Principal David Schmid. "But we have had some issues arise that are not typical. We need to do more things within our community."

Frank Cefaratti, a junior at the school, said it is critical to make parents aware of the consequences of hosting a party where they serve minors alcohol.

"It has happened quite a few times," Cefaratti said.

Routt County Sheriff John Warner said it is a matter of time before a teen-ager gets hurt as a result of these parties.

"Why are we putting the kids on diversion and not the parents?" Warner asked.

Cefaratti said the city and the student council needs to come up with activities and events that will stop students from attending parties with alcohol.

Susan Petersen, the city's recreation supervisor, said the Parks and Recreation Department is frustrated that activities offered to youth are not well attended.

"This issue needs to be tackled in a variety of angles," Petersen said.

Another issue raised at the meeting is the increase in number of sexual assaults being reported by teen-age girls.

Diane Moore, the director of Advocates Against Battering and Abuse, said the number of these assaults that her agency deals with is "skyrocketing."

"The numbers are very scary," Moore said.

One of the possible outreach plans brought up at the meeting includes meeting with parents in small groups.

Schmid said through a series of organized meetings called "parent chats," law enforcement and other officials from these agencies can get into the homes of parents who may be struggling with their children.

"I know parents know what is going on," Schmid said. "I think most struggle in what to do about it."

The goal for chats is to have each parent who attends branch out and host their own chat in their neighborhood. Each chat would be attended by agency representatives.

When Schmid started working at the school seven years ago, he met with a number of parents at their homes and he said these types of meetings could be successful.

The round-table discussion group is planning a meeting to prepare for parent chats.

Another way in which to address risky behavior discussed at the meeting is to have students work more closely with the Steamboat Springs Parks and Recreation Department to come up with activities that youths will attend.

Petersen said her department is willing to work with students and school officials on that issue.

All of the players at Wednesday's meeting said they were optimistic about reaching out to students, parents and the community.

"We need to create a greater sense of community with our kids," Schmid said. "There is so much we can do here at school because they are not here all the time. What can we do together?"

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