Bill Burnett is a Stanford University professor. He and his wife have a 16 year old son who plays high school football. On the Friday after Thanksgiving Bill and his wife Cynthia let their son have about 40 friends and players from the football team over to their house to hang out in their basement and celebrate a big win for the team. They had one rule: no alcohol.
During the party Bill and Cynthia checked on the boys downstairs and brought them pop and snacks. They knew everyone there and did not see any signs of trouble, or alcohol or drugs. At 11PM that night an anonymous call brought police to the door saying that there was a “tip” that alcohol was at the teen’s party. After checking police found some alcohol that was snuck in by some of the kids.
Bill Burnett was handcuffed, put in the squad car and arrested on 44 counts (one for each kid at the party) of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
As a parent of five children, two of them already teens, I recognize that the number one priority for parents and a community is to keep their children safe. I also recognize that that goal is behind every “zero tolerance” law that exists on the books today. Unfortunately, that policy takes common sense and good judgement out of the hands of reasonable people.
The Menlo Park, CA police were actually correct as far as following a new law making parents responsible for underage drinking in their home even if they were unaware of it (or even tried to stop it!) The police had no choice but to “hook and book” Professor Burnett. In days gone by, police on the scene could have assessed the issues quickly by interviewing the kids, identifying where the alcohol came from and whether or not the parents supplied the booze or even knew about it. Then, clear the party and make sure everyone gets home safe.
Instead, a college professor now has a record for contributing to the delinquency of minors, and the local courts have the expense of dealing with this case.
The creation of the new law was, according to the newscast below, in response to a traffic accident that took the lives of two teens a few years back. I wasn’t in California at the time but I can just see the smiling, local politician, pontificating about this “important new law” that will likely save countless lives and forever rid our community of the evils of underage drinking.
“It’s about the kids,” he likely blathered. Yeah… and the photo op.
We have to recognize that not everything requires a law. More often, when it comes to teens and their pushing the envelope of societies norms, it requires simple common sense and trust in one another. I actually trust that parents and the police can sort it all out.
Do you? Let us know.
We welcome your comments below or this Saturday on Your Family Matters with Michael & Gina. WLQV AM 1500 Detroit or listen live on the Web at www.FaithTalk1500.com