HJ/EDApril 3, 2006

Public meets in effort to control underage drinking

By Kristen Miller
Staff Writer

Lester Prairie is one of several communities taking action to address the problem of underage drinking.

At last Tuesday’s town meeting, a panel of 12 community officials and members spoke about the dangers of underage drinking.

Some of the members of the panel were Pastor Sherri Sandoz, Chief Bob Carlson, Jay Klein, school counselor, and Kathy Kiekhaefer, a concerned parent.

One senior even shared her story of the results of underage drinking.

“The consequences aren’t worth the one night of fun. And I don’t want others to live through it, but learn from it,” she said.

In a 2004 survey of Lester Prairie high school students, 71 percent of seniors reported drinking in the last 30 days and 40 percent of ninth graders.

According to the 2004 Minnesota Institute of Public Health Student Survey, 63 percent of 12th-graders and 43 percent of ninth graders admitted to consuming alcohol in the past year.

Public Safety Departments along with law enforcement officials across Minnesota held town meetings to educate parents and community members about the problem of underage drinking in their communities.

Jean Johnson of McLeod County Public Health led the meeting in Lester Prairie with a movie and statistics along with Lester Prairie Police Chief Bob Carlson.

Pastor Sandoz has seen first hand how alcohol can damage everyone involved with her own brother’s alcoholism.

“The earlier you begin drinking, the more likely you are to have an addiction,” she said.

She believes in practicing good health including mind, body, and spirit.

“We are told to respect our bodies as a temple and we need to begin modeling healthy living,” she said.

Chief Carlson explained how many parents blame law enforcement for getting their kids in trouble, but parents need to know what their kids are doing, he said.

Chester Hoernemann, a psychotherapist who is from Lester Prairie, explained to the parents that kids don’t have any civil rights and urged them to be curious of their actions and belongings.

He further stated how important it is to model good behavior in front of their children.

“It’s a different world we live in and we as a community have to deal with it,” Johnson stated.

Some explanations for underage drinking can be the amount of advertising at local and national events where sponsors are often beer companies.

One community member explained the commercials against smoking and the number of tobacco use declining, yet there had been no commercials against drinking. “It’s become a social norm.”

Another excuse kids have for underage drinking is boredom.

One member stated how a group of kids in Eden Prairie got caught drinking claiming they had nothing to do. “They’re bored in Eden Prairie and Lester Prairie.”

Another parent explained how prohibition didn’t work and telling kids not to do it isn’t going to work. Instead, he wants to teach his kids responsibility.

Concerned community members shared ideas in dealing with the problem of underage drinking.

Some solutions included a parent calling tree, in which parents can notify each other where their children are going.

Another suggestion included young kids who have been involved with underage drinking to speak openly with elementary and middle school students.

One parent suggested being more active in their children’s lives and doing more activities that interest them.

Many spoke of educating children and addressing the consequences of their actions to prevent them from making those kinds of mistakes.

Chief Carlson is urging community members to help in the brainstorming along with the Parent Teacher Advisory Committee or the Lester Prairie Task Force on where to go next. Contact Carlson at (320) 395-2100.

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