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Congressman at DeLong: Parents key to stemming drinking

May 19, 2011
In The News

Eau Claire Leader Telegram

Parental involvement is crucial to preventing underage drinking, a Wisconsin congressman and a spokeswoman for an organization that combats underage alcohol consumption told DeLong Middle School students Wednesday.

U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, and Shannon Adams, a representative from the Century Council of Arlington, Va., spread that message at DeLong, urging sixth-graders to exercise, eat right and stay away from alcohol.

"The key is that parents talk early and often with kids," Adams said.

The Century Council works to reduce drunken driving and underage drinking and promotes responsible drinking.

Adams and Kind quizzed DeLong students on the dangers of underage drinking and advised them about how to deal with peer pressure.

Kind recalled his experience as an assistant district attorney in La Crosse County, when he dealt with numerous cases involving drinking and driving. He told students even small amounts of alcohol can impair their senses and decision-making.

Adams showed students an interactive video game that encourages healthy and alcohol-free lifestyles.

The students seemed genuinely excited about the game and the lesson.

"It was pretty cool and educational," said sixth-grader Alex Gunnes.

Adams acknowledged that excitement evident in the sixth-graders Wednesday could wane by the time they're first offered alcohol. She said that's why parents must be actively involved in their children's lives, continuing discussions with students about the dangers of alcohol.

"Their lives change," Adams said. "You can't just have 'the talk.' "

Local efforts also are under way to curb underage drinking. The Alliance for Substance Abuse Prevention has targeted parents who provide alcohol to minors. They have put up signs in yards throughout Eau Claire County that read, "Parents who host lose the most."

It's illegal for adults to give alcohol to minors who are not their own children, even if they are supervising them, Richard Thoune, director of the Eau Claire City-County Health Department, said when contacted by telephone.

"Just because it happens in the home doesn't make it OK," Thoune said.