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DAZED AND CONFUSED: Parents and teens have different ideas of the dangers of underage drinking and drug use at parties.

Parties in high school are a drastic departure from the days of childhood get-togethers and parent-arranged playdates. Alcohol, marijuana and other substances are notorious for being present at such parties, and many high schoolers are presented with the choice to attend, and to partake in, these activities.

A 2009 survey by the National Institute on Drug Abuse found that 72 percent of students had consumed alcohol by the end of their high school career, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported that the current marijuana use rate for youth aged 12-17 is 6.7 percent. While these numbers may seem substantial, in a survey conducted by the Sandpoint High School admin, 60 percent of students reported having consumed alcohol in the past year.

Of course, this prevalence of illicit activity raises concern amongst parents in the community. “Teen Reality Parties” are put on by the Community Coalition for Substance Abuse and Drug Prevention (CCSAP) in Sandpoint that has enlisted the help of Sandpoint High School student actors to replicate scenarios that may happen at parties for parent audiences.

Officer Spencer Smith, the Security Resource Officer at Sandpoint High School is a member of this organization along with a Mock DUI committee member.

“[The community] puts on a teen party, a mock reality party, to showcase and show parents that things have changed over the years and to educate them on what they can be looking for in their students and throughout the community,” Smith said, “we are always trying to find better ways to educate teens on the harm that it can cause and finding ways to get them to find better curricular activities versus partying.”

In the 15 years that Mock DUI has been an event at SHS, there has not been a single serious injury accident the week of graduation. Several student actors at SHS also had the opportunity to participate in the Reality Party.

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“There were a few scenes we portrayed. I took part in the scene of a girl who drank too much and got sick [and] a scene where I was pressured to drink out of a beer bong [and] where a few girls passed out drunk and one got carried away by a boy,” one of the student actors, a junior, said, “[the scenes] obviously seemed a little exaggerated to me, because it portrayed every bad situation that could happen in a party, but it was realistic in the sense that these events do happen in real life, maybe not all in one night, but they do happen.”

Anonymous Sandpoint High School students with experience at these parties also expressed their doubt about how parents perceive modern partying.

A senior said, “parents, usually, aren’t in a position where they can truly view their child for whom they are as a person. […] Many things that are said […] go totally misunderstood by both parties.”

In addition, several students expressed that peer pressure specifically isn’t as big of an issue as many parents and adults interpret it to be.

“I think that if the people around you are drinking that you will be more socially inclined to drink. But it’s always your choice and nobody is making you do anything,” another junior said.

Overall, the biggest concern of students surveyed was the way their peers acted under the influence. “[The] decisions that are made by my peers at a party are by far the scariest thing to me. I find myself watching them become completely different people,” a senior said.

“There are always kids who get super smashed, but not every kid goes to a party to do that. A lot just like to socialize,” a junior said.

Whether in the way that peer pressure is interpreted or how parties in general are perceived by parents, it is clear that some disconnect exists amongst teenagers and adults, but that the SHS and Sandpoint community work together to promote education and awareness.