Winter has finally relinquished its hold on the northeast and prom season is upon us. Your teen’s date, wardrobe and transportation plans are likely in place. The plan oft-struggled with is: Where will your teen be after prom? Will you keep her home and invite her friends to drink under your watchful eye? If they are going to do it, it should be supervised by a responsible adult, right?
Wrong. Criminal cases involving what has become known as “social hosting,” a euphemism for adults hosting underage parties, are alarmingly common. Various charges can stem from these incidents, including furnishing alcohol to minors, corruption of minors, endangering the welfare of children and reckless endangerment. Raymond Bonnett, of Chester County, even faced charges of felony interference with the custody of children. In his case, police received reports of an underage drinking party hosted by Bonnett and his teenage son in March of 2013. Parents of teen attendees couldn’t reach their children and Bonnett faced interference charges along with endangering the welfare of children, corruption of minors and furnishing alcohol to minors.
For Linda Swope, of Westmoreland County, a video of an unconscious teen on her laundry room floor surfaced, resulting in charges of corruption of minors, reckless endangerment and furnishing alcohol to minors. A school resource officer saw the video in February, in which Swope plays drinking games with teens and laughs at the unconscious girl on the floor. This story had the makings to be as tragic as 17-year-old Christopher Packer’s. In May 2013, Christopher drank beer supplied by a friend’s mom, Christine McClain, then he overturned an ATV and died from his injuries. McClain, her son, Casey, and friend Joshua Harris, all faced charges in Luzerne County.
Judges and prosecutors take these charges seriously. Susquehanna County District Attorney Jason Legg discussed a Virginia case in which Elisa Kelly allowed her teen son to host an underage party for his 16th birthday in 2002. Police received reports of underage drinking and she was arrested. District Attorney Legg opined in a piece on his website that the judge “was tired of seeing children ending up dead in crumpled automobiles because they are intoxicated from alcohol provided by adults.” Kelly’s sentence was 8 years of incarceration.
For a particularly alarming recent example, look north across the state line into Steuben County, N.Y. Charles and Sharon Frysinger, of Corning, N.Y., hosted an after-prom drinking party for their son, Jordan, and his friends. Jordan and his friend, Cedric Hairston, were charged with the sexual assault of a teenage girl at that party. The elder Frysingers were charged with “unlawfully dealing with a child.”
The law makes no exception for the alleged “responsibility” of “social hosting.” Teenagers are cognitively unable to make responsible decisions while impaired, and parents who provide the means to impairment will be held responsible. It is not worth risking your life and reputation. Real responsibility involves excluding alcohol from the picture entirely when helping your teen plan for prom.