Last night citizens of LeRoy and surrounding towns flooded the Gymnasium at LeRoy Village Fitness to listen and voice their concerns on teenage alcohol abuse.
The community forum was scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m., but started ten minutes late because people continued to pile into the gym.
Pastor Jack Hempfling was the moderator and gave a big thank you to everyone for coming out.
In her introductory remarks, LeRoy Central Schools Superintendent Cindy Herzog, said it is all about perspective. We all come with many perspectives, we all wear different hats. She connected with the audience by sharing her own experiences.
She is a mother of five, ages 22, 20,16,14, and 13. She talked about a time when her teenage daughter was out one night and she received a phone call in the early morning hours from the police.
“When you get that phone call you can hardly breathe,” she said.
She talked about her husband always putting on the news in the morning, and the fear she feels every time they mention the teenage arrests.
“I fear every time on R News, it’s going to be one of our kids.”
David Markham, Executive Director of GCASA, tugged at the hearts of the listeners when he answered the question of “Why do I care?” He cares because he lost his 5- and 8-year-old, because of someone making a wrong choice. A drunken driver killed his children.
As he spoke he took the time to pause and let the audience reflect when he said today they would be 22 and 25.
He said we must focus on changing the community norms and attitudes, and decrease access.
Markham brought up a great point about the media reacting to the incident with Janet Jackson, at the Super Bowl. Everyone made a big deal about part of her breast being exposed, but there wasn’t anything wrong with the 22 beer commercials that were shown during the Super bowl.
Today teenagers have access at their fingertips; it is up to parents to decrease access.
Chris Hayward, LeRoy chief of police presented a slide show full of statistics showing the kids who are drinking the most are the age group 13-15.
The Village Police have seen a 131 percent increase in drug and alcohol related arrests since 2003. This is not including DWI arrests.
In 2008 the 13-21 year-old populations represented 53.5 percent of those arrests. Of those arrests the 13-18 year old population represented 73 percent.
On a national level 22.4 percent of eighth graders and fifty percent of seniors consumed alcohol in the last month from data from 2007.
There were 23 underage drinking incidents in LeRoy since May of 2008. One of the incidents in November was a 15-year-old was so drunk she couldn’t walk or stand up, so her friends just left her. Hayward gave praise for the parent who was out looking for their daughter, if they didn’t, who knows what might have happened.
Part of the message was parents must be responsible and get involved. They asked for places for teenagers to go. Seventy one percent of American youth say their parents are their leading influence.
Sixty percent of LeRoy students have used alcohol in their lifetime.
‘We have great kids,” said Hayward, “Some of our kids are making bad choices, choices that could result in death."
It is not about their character, he said, it’s about their choices.
Jackie Whiting, of LeRoy said she is all about the good choices but really pressed the panel with this question, “What are we going to do to offer better choices?” Now that the community is all here showing their concern what are the next steps to take was her main point.
Herzog responded by saying we are a big community that wants to do a lot of things, but the resources are not there. People in the audience were shaking their heads as soon as Herzog said we accept all ideas.
Ed Bishop, a parent who has spent 40 years in public education agreed there needs to be activities for the kids. He asked a powerful question about parenting.
“Most parents do not know,” he said referring to their child’s activities and whereabouts.
“Do you know?” he said.
One parent asked about the emphasis of arresting teenagers for marijuana. She works at Bryon-Bergen and said she knows kids are getting high before class in their cars.
“Pot is extremely accessible,” she said.
Hayward responded saying three weeks ago there was an arrest for possession of marijuana. He said it is a little bit tricky when it comes to making arrests with marijuana but there are arrests being made for it.
It takes a community to raise a child, one woman said and it took a community forum to realize the seriousness of preventing underage drinking in LeRoy.
The organizers gave everyone two folders full of statistics and pamphlets with advice and articles on underage drinking.
Also on the panel: Dana Berg, student, Ed Bishop, parent, Joe Englebert, Jr/Sr High Principal, Lisa Heywood, Parent, Father Michael Rock, St. Peter’s Church.
A note of interest, as I was walking to my car a couple were talking about the pool located in the Village Fitness, talking about how small it is. Then they went on to talk about how the community pool is getting taken away, and said, "Well now the kids won’t even have that."