Promoting a safe and sober Prom took priority in San Marino this week. Police delivered a vehicle wreck courtesy of Mothers Against Drunk Driving for display at , while community members and educators also stepped up efforts to discourage teenage alcohol and drug use.
"[The Prom] is almost always a great experience for every student who attends," SMHS Principal Lauren Kleinrock said in an e-mail to parents. "However, occasionally a student or students will forget the Prom is a school event and make a decision requiring disciplinary consequences that put a distinct damper on the evening."
Kleinrock's letter informed parents of rules for Saturday's gala at Vibiana in Downtown Los Angeles as well as the school's stance on after-Prom hotel rooms and chauffeured vehicles:
- No one will be admitted after 8:30 p.m.
- Students who leave the dance will not be readmitted.
- All school rules are in effect during the prom and apply to guests who don't attend San Marino High. "No one, regardless of age, will be permitted to smoke or drink at the Prom," according to Kleinrock.
- "The school does not condone the renting of hotel rooms by students, and we encourage parents not to rent these rooms for their children. ... Parents, however, must make the choice."
- Regarding chauffeured vehicles, parents should make sure the company is licensed by the California Public Utilities Commission and can provide its license number. "No reputable transportation company will serve alcohol to minors or allow it to be consumed in their vehicles," Kleinrock wrote. "Please be sure the company verifies that this is their policy and let them know you expect it to be followed."
- Students in possession or under the influence of alcohol or other drugs at the Prom will be suspended and could face expulsion.
"Personally, I have never attended a Prom or school dance in which drugs and alcohol have been an issue at all," said Eric Wu, a Prom-going SMHS senior. "Partly I believe that is due to the crowd I hang out with, but I think the majority of students at San Marino enjoy a substance-free Prom. With that said however, most are aware that there are some who do drink or do drugs, but that is usually kept on the down-low and isn't much of an issue at all."
SMHS Assistant Principal D.R. Moreland said he was unaware of how many students may have been disciplined last year as a result of drug or alcohol use on Prom night and that it would take weeks to look through the student database to find the information.
Lisa Link, the incoming President for the 2011-12 school year and a parent who has been active in teen substance abuse prevention through a group called Partnership for Awareness, advised communication on the subject between parents and teenagers.
"I have talked to my children about the dangers of drugs and alcohol, and I have told them that if they were to find themselves in a situation where they could not drive or could not be driven because the driver was under the influence ... I would pick them up," Link said. "I have talked to them about their life goals and how getting caught drinking, doing drugs or being involved in an accident involving drugs and alcohol could adversely affect those goals."
The SMPD doesn't have any Prom night measures planned, though local officers "have actively supported an alcohol- and drug-free Prom," said Lt. Steven Johnson. "As an example, on Monday the San Marino Police Department, with the assistance of MADD, delivered a trailer to the front of San Marino High School ... [that] contains a vehicle involved in a fatal collision."
Johnson said the wreck "serves as a realistic, graphic reminder of the potential harm that is associated with driving while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs."
He also warned that "substance abuse, such as alcoholic beverages, 'street' or illicit drugs, and the misuse of prescription drugs may result in immediate or long-term damage to the person who ingests the substance. Further, these substances may cause paranoid, violent reactions along with distorted responses such as tripping, falling and vehicle collisions, which may result in death, permanent injury and exposure to the criminal and civil justice systems."
Wu thought community efforts to ensure a safe Prom were persuasive.
"I think these programs do have a substantial effect on how students perceive drug and alcohol use," the SMHS senior said. "They have this great temporary shock effect on students when they talk about people getting killed or going to jail because they are under the influence, so having school assemblies or wreck displays a week or two before Prom gets students 'sobered-up' just in time."
Correction: The original version of this article misidentified Lisa Link as the current PTA President. She is in fact the incoming PTSA President for the 2011-12 school year.