Examining parents’ role in teen drinking

A tragedy prompts an evaluation of parental responsibility and teen drinking. Debates about these matters often turn into a battle of statistics, but these cases aren’t about the “parents drinking with their children” scenario that defenders often bring up.

Let’s assume we can agree that reasonable people can disagree about whether it’s wise to allow your teen a glass of wine with dinner. Are we in theoretical agreement? Great. However, it seems difficult to argue that there’s nothing wrong with a parent #1 permitting parent #2’s children to drink without parent #2’s knowledge. Shouldn’t this be beyond debate? Especially when we’re talking about large groups of teens?

“Our kids have been educated almost ad nauseam through DARE and other programs about drinking and drugs,” said Vicki Ettelson, who attended the trial and has a 16-year-old son at Deerfield High School. “We feel it’s time to offer solutions and strategies [to parents] to combat teenage drinking.”

Parents must be part of the solution because, as was shown in the Hutsell case, some of them are part of the problem, Ettelson said. The Hutsells and their attorneys could not be reached for comment on Sunday.

A Lake County jury Saturday found the Hutsells, both 53, knew 20 to 30 teens were drinking alcohol in their basement and did nothing to stop it. The couple also were convicted of endangering the life of a child and lying to police investigating the crash, but they were acquitted of a count of destroying evidence. Their sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 11.