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Open forum convenes against drunk driving

By Jesse Zhang
Published: November 2008

In response to the three car accidents on Columbus Day weekend involving Newton South students driving under the influence, the Newton community held forums in South’s auditorium on November 5 and 12.

The purpose of the meeting was to help parents prevent reckless driving, drinking and driving, drug use, and peer pressure.

The forum, which included Newton Police and South faculty, spoke to parents about the seriousness of driving under the influence of alcohol or marijuana.

“We want parents to create change, Drug and Alcohol Prevention Counselor Rich Catrambone said. “Parents are greater influences to children than teachers.

Lieutenant Bruce Apotheker of the Newton Police proposed building partnerships between the police department and the courts, the district attorney office, and the schools in order to maximize prevention. He also stressed the importance of proactive parenting.

“We need the parents’ help or else we are going to fail and the consequences may be tragic, Apotheker said. “We can offer a lot of resources to you and your kids.

Officer David Spirito, who works at North and regularly talks to the kids there, hopes that all police can develop the relationship where kids can trust the police.

South faculty at the meeting want to empower young people through methods such as prevention programs. Both faculty and police, however, feel they will not get far without the help of the parents.

“The school can’t solve all of the problems in the community single-handedly, Principal Brian Salzer said. “But the school can be the leader in creating a system that can get people to work together to solve the problems of the community.

By involving incoming freshmen classes in programs such as Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drugs (ATOD), South hopes to spur conversations and get a better understanding of freshmen.

The panel wants parents to be aware of the significance of one poorly made decision.

“It starts with the choices, district attorney Kerry Aleman said. “One decision can put your kid on the path to destruction. What the child has to learn is that they can trust you.

Aleman, who has worked with several DUI cases, told parents that kids may lose financial support in college if caught driving under the influence. She spoke about a particular case where a kid did not go to medical school because he was caught driving while drunk.

During the meeting, former Newton student Alex Bardin spoke to parents about his experiences as a heavy partier and drug and alcohol user.

“My life was a mess, Bardin said. “Drinking and doing drugs was a way to be social for me. Party things started out as fun. Throughout my drinking and drugging, it had become a problem. Bardin had been to the funerals of several of his friends before he graduated in 2001.

Bardin recalled one weekend when his parents were away. To prevent him from partying, they “shipped him to Maine. Desperate to impress his friends, Bardin came back to Massachusetts, broke into his house, and threw a party.

Bardin, who is now sober, wants parents to understand why he could party and use drugs and alcohol to such a high extent.

“Parents were lax. All these things were just open to me. I took every opportunity available to me. I snuck out every night, he said.

“Talk to your kids. Check in on them, Bardin advised parents. “After all these years, there is still the same attitude. The same thing is going on.

Principal Brian Salzer also warned of “flash gatherings where hundreds of people can be at a house within ten minutes because of modern day technology.

“One person can text 100 people about a party, he said. Salzer said that this may result in a responsible child trying to control a party that he or she never intended to hold.

“In the end, it’s the relationship between the student and the parent that plays a primary role, Salzer said.

Several parents felt that the meeting was interesting and educational.

“The meeting was wonderful, parent Cathy Huang said. “If I didn’t come, I wouldn’t have realized the seriousness of these issues.

“This was an amazing forum, agreed parent Margaret Zorfas. “It was informative. It addressed our concerns. And it didn’t feel like they were preaching. If there was something they could add, they should tell parents more about prevention and how to deal with these issues at home.

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