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Edgerton addresses underage drinking

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Stacy Vogel
April 1, 2008
— As an Edgerton EMT, Tom Freeman often sees the tragic results of underage drinking.

As a parent, he tries to import the weight of those tragedies to his teenage children.


“I do want to remind the kids—and I guess I’ll remind each and every one of us—it’s not pretty out there,” he told about 40 people gathered at the Newville Culver’s on Monday.


The Edgerton residents were gathered for a “town hall meeting,” one of 1,600 such meetings taking place across the nation in March and April to talk about underage drinking. Similar meetings will take place in Beloit, Evansville and Janesville this week.


Underage drinking is a national problem, but a study shows the rate of underage drinking in Edgerton is unusually high, said Erin Springstead, Edgerton High School counselor.


A 2005 anonymous survey found Edgerton teens were more likely to use alcohol, get drunk, binge drink and drive after drinking than their peers in the rest of Rock County.


Among Edgerton teens in sixth to 12th grade, 39 percent reported using alcohol at least once in the last month. Among seniors, the number rose to 63 percent.


“Alcohol in this community is part of our culture,” said Steve Zartman, parent and physical education manager for the Edgerton School District. “I think we have an overage drinking problem as much as an underage drinking problem in this community.”


It’s too easy for Edgerton teens to leave the city and drink in rural areas, where they escape the notice of law enforcement, said Edgerton Police Chief Tom Klubertanz. There are few consequences for teen drinking because, legally, the police department can’t notify the high school about violations unless the school asks about them, he said.


“Somebody has to know about it in order for us to confirm it to the school,” he said.


And it’s not just high schoolers, Klubertanz said. Drinking is prevalent at Edgerton Middle School too, he said.


But there are steps communities can take to curb underage drinking, said Julia Sherman, outreach specialist for the Wisconsin Clearinghouse for Prevention Resources. Communities need to limit the three A’s of drinking, she said: access, availability and affordability.


Parents also need to talk to their children when they’re young, she said.


“If you wait to talk to your kids until they get the car keys, you’ve waited too long,” she said.


PREVENTION SUGGESTIONS

Here are some suggestions from Julia Sherman, outreach specialist for the Wisconsin Clearinghouse of Prevention Resources, to help communities curb underage drinking:


-- Show support for police enforcement of underage drinking laws by calling your city council members and writing letters to the local newspapers.


-- Adopt municipal ordinances controlling drinking. For example, in the village of Hartland, parents can be penalized if their children receive three or more underage drinking tickets.


-- Enact age compliance checks at businesses that sell alcohol.


-- Limit alcohol use on public land by requiring licensed bartenders, limiting the number of pitchers that can be bought at one time and installing double fences that prevent people from passing alcohol out of the boundaries.


-- Restrict alcohol advertising near schools, churches, parks and other areas where children are likely to be. Ban alcohol advertising on public property, such as buses.


OTHER MEETINGS

Monday’s town hall meeting in Edgerton was one of several this week in Rock County. Others will be in:


-- Beloit, 6 p.m. Wednesday at Beloit Memorial High School, 1225 Fourth St.


-- Evansville, 7 p.m. Wednesday at Evansville High School, 640 S. Fifth St.


-- Janesville, 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Edison Middle School, 1649 S. Chatham St.



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