January 8, 2007
Alcohol related crashes take the lives of nearly 3,600 young adults each year. A group of parents, teachers and students gathered at Western Albemarle High School to make sure they weren't part of that statistic.
"I have a daughter who is driving here in a few months and it scares me to death," said parent Michelle Bushrow.
Bushrow is a mother of three including two teenagers. She came to Western Albemarle High School with her daughter Christine and about 50 others to be better informed about alcohol use and teens.
"A lot of times parents are the last to know and it is not going to happen to their kids or their kids are not going to be involved in it. I think we all underestimate the pressure of peers," she said.
The hour and a half program featured several speakers including the Commonwealth's Attorney and Albemarle County Police. School Resource Officer John Gephardt says while there have been no instances of alcohol related problems this school year, the timing is always good.
"It's a timely topic pretty much anywhere and anytime. I think it is really important that we can talk to the parents and get them involved," he said.
Last year, Albemarle County Schools was rocked by two significant alcohol incidents, including the drunk driving death of a 17-year-old Albemarle High student. And while that death is tragic, some say the affects can be even further reaching.
"A student doesn't have to partake in underage drinking to possibly affected by it. It can affect everyone," said WAHS PTO President Ellen Hyde.
For Michelle Bushrow, her message to her kids is simple.
"Call me. Any time of day or night. If you think you are going to get in trouble, it doesn't matter, call me," she said.
Over the summer, Albemarle County Schools instituted a new policy where young offenders can be punished for incidents off of school grounds. School Board Member Brian Wheeler says they are looking into possibly tweaking more of those policies to prevent any further tragedies.