Teen-age drinking parties appear to be on the decline in Vermont

RUTLAND, Vt. (AP) With prom season in full swing and high school graduations looming, police and liquor enforcement officials across Vermont say high school students are drinking less.

But students say the parties are still taking place. They’re just smaller and young people have learned how to hide their parties.

”It seems to be that people are getting the message,” said State Liquor Inspector John D’Esposito. ”It is becoming de-normalized to have a party with alcohol.”

But some Rutland County high school students don’t believe it.

”It still goes on,” said Jared Cote, a senior at Mill River Union High School.

D’Esposito has devoted a lot of time educating students and parents about the dangers, risks and liabilities of including alcohol at teen parties. He has given seminars, talks and answered many people’s questions on the subject of underage drinking.

The education campaign, coupled with party alternatives like Project Graduation, has resulted in fewer parties involving alcohol and teen-agers, he said.

”Parents are initiating some of it, the kids are doing some of it,” he said. ”But Rome wasn’t built in a day.”

To be sure, the parties still happen and teen-agers are still going to get drunk.

”As far as parties go, they still happen,” one high school senior who asked to remain anonymous told the Rutland Herald. ”I would say that more kids do (drink alcohol) than don’t. People have more respect for cops now because they know they can get busted. People are just more secretive about it.”

He said parties occur at houses where a student’s parents have gone away, or out in the woods at a remote camping spot.

Police have received fewer reports of underage drinking parties this year compared to last year, according to Rutland City Police Lt. Kevin Geno.

Geno is one of the leaders of the Rutland County Stop Teen Alcohol Risk Team – a combined law enforcement effort that targets underage drinking. Nevertheless, he said, extra patrols will be out looking for parties and underage drinkers – in particular underage drinkers who are driving.

”It’s tough this time of year because you don’t want any tragedies,” he said. ”It’s a time of year for them to celebrate, but it is also a time of year for them to be careful.”

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