Steamboat Springs As a counselor working with sixth-graders at the Yampa Valley Science School, Steamboat Springs High School senior Taylor Miller-Freutel said she became convinced underage drinking is starting at a younger age.
"You'll hear little snippets from students about them talking about their parents drinking and even their own drinking," said Miller-Freutel, 17, who spoke Tuesday night at an underage drinking forum for parents and community members.
"I feel like underage drinking isn't only a school issue addressed by teachers and students, but it is a whole community issue," she said. "We see you doing these actions, like allowing students to go into their liquor cabinets and not doing anything about it."
Seniors Liz Floyd, Molly Weiss and Ashley Palmer joined Miller-Freutel to describe the climate of alcohol use in Steamboat Springs schools. The students said alcohol is usually obtained through parent's liquor cabinets or Colorado Mountain College students.
"I think those people who supply to minors need to understand the consequences of their actions and what can happen to them if they get caught," Weiss said.
There were no easy solutions proposed at the forum to combat underage drinking in Steamboat. All agreed it would take a coalition of parents, teens, school and law enforcement officials to solve the problem.
A Steamboat Springs High School survey revealed in January 2006 that 54 percent of high school students reported using alcohol once or more in the past 30 days, and 40 percent reported getting drunk once or more in the past two weeks.
The survey also found that 74 percent of high school students reported attending one or more parties in the past year where fellow students were drinking.
One strategy discussed was implementing a citywide social host ordinance, which would allow police to hold adults accountable for underage drinking that occurs in their homes or rental units.
The Steamboat Springs City Council declined to move forward with such an ordinance in February, but council member Towny Anderson said the issue will be brought up again for discussion.
"What I am hearing is that we are in a changing culture," Anderson said.
He said the City Council didn't have enough information to make an informed decision about the ordinance in February.
"Everything starts with us : as parents and members of the community we need to change our behavior," he said. "I believe the City Council is prepared to support it, but the grass-roots efforts - going door to door - is probably the best thing to do."
Capt. Joel Rae of the Steamboat Springs Police Department ended the forum, which was hosted by the Grand Futures Prevention Coalition, the Youth Wellness Initiative, the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association, the Northwest Colorado Community Health Project, the Colorado Trust and the Yampa Valley Community Foundation.
"I will take the blame for not getting the ordinance passed," Rae said, adding that the Police Department could have done a better job informing the City Council.
"The main reason why I'm here tonight is to ask for a multi-pronged approach, criminally and civilly, to address underage drinking," Rae said. "It's not the parents here that we are concerned about, it's the ones that are not here."
- To reach Mike McCollum, call 871-4208
or e-mail email@example.com