County aims to crack down on parents who allow underage drinking at home

The county is aiming to make the choice much easier for local parents who might think about letting their kids drink alcohol in their homes. At Thursday night’s meeting, the commission approved a tweaked ordinance to make it tougher on those “social hosting.”
Michael Mumper and Dawn Oparah with AVPRIDE, Becky Smith with Fayette FACTOR, and local family attorney Catherine Sanderson were on hand to help celebrate the occasion.
“When parents knowingly allow youth to drink on their property, this is called social hosting. This particular ordinance is aimed at holding parents accountable who host these parties,” Mumper said. “It is aimed at giving parents who are thinking about hosting such parties a strong reason to say ‘No, we will not host this party. We do not want to pay this fine, do the community service, attend this class, and even spend time in jail.'”
The process has been a long one to get to this point. Four years ago, AVPRIDE and Fayette FACTOR joined together to address underage drinking. A study they worked on for an entire year found that Fayette County actually has a larger problem with underage drinking than most of the state. Their study determined that roughly 26-percent of twelfth graders around the state consume alcohol at least monthly. In Fayette County, that number is 33-percent, the twenty-seventh highest county in the state.
The study also showed that the kids typically do not get the alcohol through retail, instead, they get it at their homes or those of a friend. Twenty-five-percent of the youth surveyed said they know parents who host underage drinking parties. Even though the parents may not actually serve the alcohol, they still allow it to happen on their property.
The two groups are dedicated to helping. They are currently working with the school system to implement alcohol education at all five middle schools. With the help of the community, enforcement will get stricter, too.
“Sheriff Barry Babb, in particular, was a driving force in this effort,” Mumper said. “He was joined by law enforcement and attorneys from every municipality in our county who weighed in on enforceability, constitutionality, and appropriate penalties that get to the root of the issue, helping us focus this particular effort strictly on the parents who are hosting.”
The commissioners unanimously approved the changes. Commissioner David Barlow shared how he has seen many affected by underage drinking when visiting with a local judge.
“If you do that, that will really open your eyes because here come the teenagers that have been arrested for drug use or alcohol abuse,” Barlow recalled. “It was mind-boggling for me to see those precious teenagers who have gone a little astray and they’re standing before a judge.”

Christopher Dunn

Managing Editor Christopher Dunn has been with the Fayette County News since 2011, in addition to running Fayette Victory magazine. He is a graduate of Fayette County schools, as well as a graduate of Georgia State University with a degree in journalism. Follow him on twitter @fayettesports.