Teens fight underage drinking

SSHS seniors ask community to help stop youth alcohol use


— 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.

Changing culture

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 mmccollum@steamboatpilot.com


slow_rider 9 years, 5 months ago

Step by step the authorities will begin to control what goes on in our own homes. It sounds like this ordinance will give us less freedom to decide if we can educate our teens on responsible consumption of alcohol on our own schedule.

The reason why teens want to drink is because they know it is forbidden fruit. They see adults drinking, and they know that they will legally be regarded as adults at 18 (even though they cannot legally consume alcohol until 21) and curiosity takes over.

In Europe children are introduced to alcohol in family situations at ages as young as 14. This allows many years for kids to learn their limits under the guidance of their parents. In the US this goes on too, but increasingly parents must fear prosecution for allowing their children to learn control at home.

We have to accept that kids / teens will consume and focus on teaching responsible consumption.


Sunnydays 9 years, 5 months ago

So that explains the "lock in" parties out on the local ranches... this is not responsible drinking. Unfortunately with drinking and "lock ins" comes unintended consequences such as a 25 % response by high school girls that they have been sexually assaulted. Nice statistic for such a perfect town... boys will be boys...


stmbtnative 9 years, 5 months ago

The survey showed 40% of the high schoolers reported getting drunk at least once within the previous two weeks. I was born in Steamboat came up through the school system, graduated from the high school. Kids drank then, but it wasn't nearly at the rate of the students today and the vast majority of the ones getting drunk were kids who had parents who drank excessively. If a parent wants to let their kid have a glass of wine at a family dinner, yes, that might help them learn to drink responsibly, but allowing a party to occur at their home or allowing their kids to take alcohol out of their home is only fanning the fire. These kids need good role models and boundaries not parents who make excuses for them and enable them.

You would hope the Sheriff would be a good role model, but obviously ours is not. I hope Sheriff Wall is considering the extensive damage he has done in the efforts to curb the drinking problem in Steamboat and the mockery he has made of his elected position.

The drinking problem is a catalyst for many other social problems. If we don't do something now, we aren't going to like the consequences down the road. This isn't a case where ignoring it will cause it to go away.


twoducksrock 9 years, 5 months ago

I am an absentee property owner, but have been around Steamboat long enough to wonder why do young people do other than drink in such a beautiful setting. My first experience with Steamboat was that most of the ski bums did nothing but drink starting in the afternoon. This past summer, there was a free concert and I was concerned that there were more than a half dozen tents all with beer, and I could hardly find any food vendors.
After the concert, I was to meet friends at one of the local restaurants. I sat for over three hours watching young ladies (using that term loosely) stumbling over each other and I found that very unattractive. Likewise, the young guys were falling all over the place. I would suspect that there was more booze flowing that night than water in the Yampa River. My impression of Steamboat is that it is an awesome place to be - nature and beauty abounds, and what a waste of young human beings (and their livers) to do hardly anything but drink themselves stupid. Either people have no idea of how poverty stricken and impoverished some areas are in the US, - or they choose to just be anesthetized and relegated to becoming a "ski bum" for the rest of their lives.

I believe those who really care about Steamboat and the next generation should put their heads together to find something more worthwhile.

As a parent, one should ask to look at their kid's MySpace and see how slutty and drunken their kids are promoted on the social network.

It really is a sad statement about the future of Steamboat and our kids.


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