Police engage youth on underage drinking

RCMP and the school board are working together to eliminate senseless tragedies like the one that claimed the life of a Pen High student at a grad party last June.

RCMP and the school board are working together to eliminate senseless tragedies like the one that claimed the life of a Pen High student at a grad party last June.

“Let’s educate and provide opportunities for youth in the community and have it driven by the youth. We want youth leaders to come together with representatives from the police, school administration, parent advisory committees and have a discussion on how we can advance an education program in regards to drug and alcohol usage,” said Insp. Brad Haugli.

“It is something that is not going to change overnight, but I think this is a very positive step forward in trying to engage the youth in helping make a decision and change the way of thinking for their peer group.”

School board officials and RCMP met last week and decided it was imperative students are directly involved in educating their peers, rather than an RCMP officer, parent or teacher.

“It’s them having to make those choices if they are at a party and do they take that drink or not. It’s them that some parents are providing liquor to go to parties with. It is them that are making those decisions at that time when the parents or someone in authority isn’t there to help make the decision. We need to provide them the tools to make decisions for themselves versus trying to hold their hands all the time,” said Haugli.

A committee has been struck to discuss what can be done as a community to educate the youth. Mounties will also be taking a new direction when it comes to the non-school-sanctioned graduation parties called sunrise and sunset that occur the day before the first day of school and the day before the final day of school. A Grade 11 student, Andrew McAdam, was stabbed to death June 17 at the sunset party held in the upper Carmi area.

“We are still going to make an effort to find out when and where these parties are occurring and have that enhanced enforcement. Bottom line is that it’s under-age drinking that is occurring that could ultimately result in behaviour that leads to what we had happen — the ultimate tragedy of someone losing a life,” said Haugli.

“Rather than just having road blocks, we are now actually engaging in the area where the students and youth might be drinking. We are wandering on a foot patrol at the actual venue where they are having the party. We get plugged in at the beginning and even beforehand so that when people show up and see that yellow stripe they are going to turn around and go the other way.”

The next challenge in this day of social media, said Haugli, is finding out where the party will move to and trying to keep on top of it.

Wendy Hyer, superintendent for School District 67, said the next steps are finding people to sit on the committee and talking with principles of schools to find student volunteers.

“We see this as a window of opportunity. There is a certain amount of awareness of what can happen at these (parties) because of the incident with the death of the young student, so we see the next while as an opportune time to have some good conversation with youth because the incident is still fresh in their minds,” said Hyer.