Parent Sounds Off on Teen After Parties

EDITOR’S NOTE: A Highland Park ISD parent sent this letter to the editor in hopes that it would provoke a timely discussion about teen drinking. After verifying authorship of the letter, we respected the author’s desire to remain anonymous. But it thoughtfully raises some issues to consider, and we welcome your feedback in the comments section.

Dear Editor:

A few years ago, I walked with two different friends the week after Homecoming. I forget many things, but remember those conversations like it was yesterday.

What was interesting to me weren’t the similarities in the Homecoming “after party” plans, but the vast differences in the parental response to those plans. It was helpful to me and I want to share it with you as fall dances and parties are now in full swing.

Walk No. 1: According to my friend, the night was off to a great start. Kids arrived for pictures, put their bags with change of clothes in a central location, and then loaded a bus to go to dinner and then the high school for the dance. Everyone was polite, respectful, well-behaved, and having a wonderful time in this great group of good students and rising athletes involved in a variety of other school-related organizations.

Later that evening, the parents hosting the party after the dance were preparing for the bus to arrive and checked the bags for alcohol. It appeared all was clear … as expected from this great group. While they organized the room for the influx of kids, suddenly a large bottle of liquor was discovered in a cowboy boot. That prompted further investigation within the room and adjoining bath, and the parents began to find not just small amounts of alcohol in the typical water bottles, but mega-sized bottles of hard liquor cleverly hidden in shoeboxes, under clothes piles, in drawers, and with cleaning supplies under bathroom sinks. The more they found, the more they looked, and the more shocked they became.

If I had been sitting, I would have been on the edge of my seat.  What did the parents do next? These hosts put calls out to the parents of children in the group and asked them to come over before the bus arrived. Those that were able to come collectively decided what to do. When the kids were off to change clothes, a few moms went to talk to the girls and some dads went to talk to the boys. They explained to the kids what they found and what they did with it (poured it out). More importantly, these parents told the kids what could happen as a result of them consuming what had been found — the car accident that could happen, the citation or arrest received, the person that gets alcohol poisoning and/or becomes ineligible to compete after years of preparation.

I was so humbled and blown away by how these parents collectively handled this difficult situation — with deep care for their children and the children in the group. And I do mean children — nearly all were under the age of 18. I was humbled because I had hosted after parties. I had checked bags for some parties and not for others. I had never thought to look elsewhere beyond the bags. When I pictured myself in the same situation as the hosting parents, I could not imagine or even logically think through what I would do. I would hope I would do the same thing they did. Hearing about their response has prepared me to be a better host of an after party and I hope it helps those of you reading this also.

Walk No. 2: I was first struck by what a great group of kids were in this group — super smart kids that had big plans and goals and successes in their high school endeavors, and many had already been awarded great scholarships and opportunities. My friend showed me the email she received less than a week before the dance about this “after party” from the parents who volunteered to host. The email informed all the other parents of the following:  they rented a lake house, there would be alcohol present, and they would be collecting keys to ensure no one would drive off intoxicated.

It was very upfront and matter-of-fact. At first, I appreciated the honesty, but as I thought through this more, I found myself very bothered. The email was sent less than a week before the dance. I put myself in the shoes of some of the kids on that list — they have their date, they have paid their portion of the bus fee and possibly even dinner upfront. If they don’t want to go to an after party with alcohol or if they promised their date’s parents that they would not be in a group that would — they have now been put in a very hard spot. Do they back out of the group?  Do they forfeit the money already paid, since the bus cost was equally divided among those who committed to go together? Do they go alone or try to find another group? Depending on how well they know their date, this could be very awkward.

I saw the list and there were kids in that group who had a lot to lose by getting caught in a situation that these hosting parents put them in. In that group alone, there was a National Merit Scholar, one who had worked for years to get an appointment to a military academy, and a few others who had applied for special scholarships that are given under the assumption that these students will, at a minimum, obey the law. A careless picture or Snapchat could ruin those plans in a nanosecond.

School has started, and so have the dances and parties. The parents who are facilitating and helping kids to have parties with alcohol — by either providing it or allowing it to be present — may think the kids are thrilled about that. And, no doubt, some will be. But likely there are kids in some groups who are now feeling pressure to break the law and drink from not only their peers, but also from adults in their community. That is very sad. There are also some kids who are thrilled on Saturday about the freedom to drink, but wish on Sunday that “those parents” didn’t allow it … not just because of how they feel, but what they did and what others saw them do that will haunt them for a long time, whether they were caught or not.

I wonder if some parents are just assuming their kids want to drink because it is expected. I also wonder if some parents are even encouraging their own kids to drink to be popular and fit in. That may work initially, but in some cases, the exact opposite occurs. There are too many sad examples of this scenario.

What I learned from these two walks is the vastly different approaches to parenting teens on this issue of alcohol. It helped me to see the contrast in these two responses by parents in our community. It encouraged me to continue to quickly volunteer to host after parties even though there are risks and we don’t have the coolest house. It reminded me to search bags again and other places also (even to look for freshly dug holes on the property based on another story I heard). I reinforced the importance of having a list of all the kids who will be coming and a parent name and phone number in case I need to call. I also learned that I will ask a lot of questions of those parents planning the different aspects of the events my children will attend, so I can prepare my kids for what they might encounter so they aren’t put in a situation they don’t want to be in. It encouraged me to have courage to protect our kids, even if it makes them unhappy in the short term, like the parents on the first walk. I hope it helps you too.


Concerned parent

8 thoughts on “Parent Sounds Off on Teen After Parties

  • October 21, 2015 at 5:23 pm

    party 1. yes,,dump the booze but cancel the party. send the conniving little s**ts home. party 2. report to HPPD and HPISD , even after the fact. 3. move and change your name hoping to avoid retaliations.

    • October 22, 2015 at 12:04 pm

      Boooooooo. Get Real

  • October 21, 2015 at 10:10 pm

    Loaded response here….

    As a graduate removed 15+ years, this is a problem that faces the public 100 years ago and will 100 years from now. You need to be honest, which both cases had on the part of the adults. Question being, are you trying to teach responsibility or are you trying scare tactics with what may happen?

    Taking the assumption that these kids were seniors yet to turn 18, what happens a year from then? When they are at college without experience of alcohol or how to handle it with people you have know for years* (yes you may go to a college with friends from high school, but the reality that everyone does is slim or will be with them 24/7 is not realistic). Different environment and no parents around to control the atmosphere. How much maturity changes from 17 to 18? I am not saying let high school drinks to their hearts continent but how else will they learn to enjoy alcohol rather than abuse? We have a learner’s permit, hardship and provisional license for driving, because we know a 15, 16, 17 year olds are not developed as an 18 year old but they need to learn.

    Personally, thankfully I had drinks before age 21. I knew what my limit was going into college rather than learning a harder lesson in college with my first time with people you trust but barely know.

    • October 22, 2015 at 1:53 pm

      1. I have had this argument made to me by my friends. “I don’t want them going off to college without experience in alcohol,” they tell me over and over. My answer: Well lets go on Craig’s list and hire an escort service since they will be exposed to sex at college and they need to experience it in high school to know safe sex.
      2. Most of the kids won’t turn 21 – you know the legal drinking age – until their junior or senior year in college. So what’s the rush in high school to expose them to alcohol? What you’re really saying to them is that it is ok to break the law… and that you know that they will drink in college and it’s ok.

      • October 22, 2015 at 10:01 pm

        1. No escorts because sex does not cost a thing when it is real (as in it is mutually agreed they perform the act sans money). So that comparison is not a good one.

        2. No i am not saying it is ok to break the law but life is not always black and white. The law is but not life. If you still believe they will not have the temptation in college let alone in high school and to wait until 21, then I am have a discussion with someone who is not in touch with reality or youth. I am not telling anyone to rush in, but if the urge is there you are naive to think they (kids) will not go to any and all means to get it and hide it from you. Back to my point of being honest and have the heart to heart discussion so the parent may educate their kid and provide a safer environment than there would be.

  • October 22, 2015 at 8:08 pm

    Several years ago my high schooler (clearly underaged) was at an after party of a family who live within blocks of the UP police station. My offspring had inadvertently left the after party change of clothes at the pre-party/pictures venue and texted me to take it to the location of the after party. I handed it to the father who was hosting the event and stated that I just looked through it and didn’t find any contraband. Furthermore, I asked if I missed something to please let me know. When my child went missing after the night’s events until about 5 am and our family were franticly calling and searching – we soon found my child “wasted” in some bushes. After the despair, fury, anguish, fear, sadness, and utter disbelief subsided I took a private action to learn. I went online and reviewed the activities from the after party on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram etc. What I found were loads of pictures including several photos of the surveillance room and the various monitors showing where the hidden cameras were pointing through the expansive home – I imagine the cameras were for security to keep the “bad guys out.” But that night it was more like they kept the bad guys in. I went with all my proof to the UP Police and filed a report. They said they have had many parents complain about that house/family but so much social pressure is put on the reporting families that it never gets anywhere. I have been told by my high schoolers that most parents know and are condoning their underage sons and daughters throwing parties and consider it fine (as long as the children who get wasted and disperse – are not there own precious children – just other people’s). Somehow that strikes me as dangerous and selfish. On a separate occasion and with a different child, I was so frustrated, that upon learning of my other child being hugely over-served at a house party, I called the land line and asked for the mother who was in attendance. I specifically asked if she were aware there was a party going on and her retort was yes. I asked if she was also aware alcohol was being consumed and she again said yes. I asked her if she would walk my son to the sidewalk and wait with him (as he was drunk) until I got there. She said no. I was dumbfounded. I asked again assuming we were somehow miscommunicating. She again said no. I said, you will, or I will call the police because your blatant disregard for my son is beyond measure. I was pulling up as I was ending my conversation with her and had the UP police on the other line. I was nearly hit broadside by a high school girl throwing her red solo cup out the driver’s window of her black Escalade and speeding down the neighborhood street at what was easily over 40 mph. I then learned she asked my son not to come to any more of her daughter’s parties. LOL – ya’ think?

    • October 23, 2015 at 12:00 pm

      That’s such a disturbing story and is the main reason we moved out of UP 2 years ago. We were really fearful for our daughter’s safety and although she was held accountable for her underage drinking, the parents who allowed her to be served were not. The acceptance and prevalence of teen binge drinking in the Park Cities scared the heck out of us, so we pulled her out of there and she’s thriving. I always prayed no child I knew (especially my own) would end up dead from one of these parties. Kudos to you for your vigilance; I’m sure it’s hard to be the “lone voice in the wilderness,” requesting accountability from the hosts. We were very lucky that the two times my child was extremely drunk at one of these parties, she actually called me to come get her. In her sophomore year at HPHS, I know of 3 classmates who went to the ER for alcohol poisoning. That’s a problem, folks.

      • October 26, 2015 at 2:22 pm

        You think this is a problem in the Park Cities? No. The Park Cities are not different than any other suburb in that regard. I don’t know how this misconception ever started, but kids will drink and smoke just as much, if not more, outside the Park Cities as they will in them.


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