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Posted on Thu, Apr 12, 2012 : 8:59 a.m.

For parents hosting teen parties this spring -- let's talk

By Rich Kinsey

Spring is upon us and the school year is dwindling down. In many households with high school students, there will be parties and celebrations for proms and graduations.

Parents of high school students I am going to ask you a favor that could potentially save a life — do not try to be the “cool” parent. Step up and take full responsibility for the prom and graduation parties you host — do not allow underage drinking!

In the State of Michigan, the legal age to drink is 21. It is a pretty simple and straightforward law. The only exceptions are that a minor may consume sacramental wine in a house of worship as part of a religious ceremony or in an accredited college class under the supervision of a certified faculty member — if it is a course requirement.


It can be a delicate balance between adult supervision and killing any chance for the kids to have a good time, but allowing alcohol should never be an option.

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What this means for parents hosting prom and graduation parties is that a parent can be charged with furnishing alcohol to a minor if underage drinking is allowed. Furthermore, the adult hosting the party can be held both criminally and civilly responsible if underage drinking occurs and someone is hurt or, heaven forbid, killed as a result of alcohol consumption at the party.

This means that parents hosting parties must take necessary precautions to make sure that underage drinking does not occur at the party. The booze should be locked up or otherwise inaccessible to potential underage drinkers. Parents are responsible for whatever goes on at the party. Therefore if a parent allows a party in the home, they must supervise it.

This also means parents must monitor who comes into the party and what "party favors" are being brought to the party. If someone brings alcohol to the party parents must-STOP IT and SEIZE IT. If the underage person who brought the alcohol (or drugs) to the party has consumed some, do not let them drive. Call the police if necessary, but keep that child off the road and prevent a potential tragedy.

Does this mean that there must be a parent at each corner of the basement, garage or backyard every moment of the party? No, but it means that frequent trips into the party to fill chip bowls or ice buckets and keep an eye on things is necessary. What is required is “reasonable” supervision.

It may be a delicate balance between adult supervision and killing any chance for the kids to have a good time. Therefore I suggest talking to your child before having a party. Talk to your young adult and discuss what acceptable behavior is for both parties. This is a good learning experience for your child. It teaches them how “adults” avoid future problems by setting certain boundaries before problems arise.

For those parents who are considering having an “overnight” party and allowing alcohol but keeping the underage drinker’s “safe” by taking their car keys. My advice is: Do not do it! Having consulted some young adults whose opinions I value and who are never far from a good time (spelled S-O-N-S, and their friends), this strategy does not work.

The problem well-meaning parents holding “overnight” parties confront is 21st century communications. Kids inside the party call kids orbiting from party to party outside the “supervised” overnight parties and arrange pick-ups, deliveries and surreptitious escapes in the wee hours of the morning. Furthermore, some students attending such overnight parties merely bring several sets of car keys.

Mom and dad, if you decide to have an overnight party, for instance on prom night, make sure there is no alcohol. Since other parents will be depending on you keeping their children safe — you better take a nap or stock up on energy drinks because you should be pulling an “all nighter” to supervise the party.

Parents of students attending parties out of the home, I urge you to communicate with the parents hosting those party. Perhaps they may need help or perhaps they did not even know about the party because they are out of town. Either way a friendly call and inquiry about the party and expectations expressed by both guest and host parents can prevent problems and keep our young adults safe.

Some parents may wonder if it is hypocritical to be so tough on underage drinking since they may have partaken in their youth. My response is that times and attitudes toward drinking have changed — the right thing to do in 2012 is to prevent underage drinking and perhaps save young lives in the process.

In 1982, when I joined the Ann Arbor Police Department, if an officer arrested an adult drunken driver, and he was not what would now be termed a “super drunk” peer officers would term the arrest “chicken scat” — perhaps a bit more vulgarly expressed.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) came along and changed all of that. Soon in police circles, the officer who could detect the “marginal” drunks was admired. Drunk driving laws have become stricter, and the roads have become safer.

Finally, parents, remember our children are the most important things in our lives. These young adults will be out on their own, making their own decisions, soon enough. Please parents, while you still can, keep your children safe! Set a good adult example for them during this spring party season. Obey the law and do not allow underage drinking at the parties you host.

Lock it up, don’t leave it unattended, be aware and watch out for your neighbors.

Rich Kinsey is a retired Ann Arbor police detective sergeant who now blogs about crime and safety for He also serves as the Crime Stoppers coordinator for Washtenaw County.



Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 4:43 p.m.

Way to support irresponsible underage drinking. No one will read this comment because this article is so old, but I had to comment. When you tell parents not to be "cool" and don't host parties with alcohol you are basically saying. "hey kids, go drink somewhere else that doesn't have supervision." This is the same stupid attitude as "just preach abstinence" and that will stop kids from having sex. Wake up to reality and actually come up with real solutions, not this head in the sand nonsense. Every party I ever when to in High School was hosted by a parent. We couldn't leave, had to give them our keys and all the other parents knew what was going on. In the end all of us made it out of HS alive because we didn't have to hide and then try and drive drunk. Screaming that hosting parties for underage drinking is illegal doesn't solve the "problem" of kids drinking underage. There is no solution that the law can adequately solve because there isn't a real problem. Kids drink for the same reasons adults do, so guess what? They are going to do it. I for one support hosting parties and will do so when the time comes for my child. Why you ask? because then I can keep my child and her friends safe in my home. Not out in some back field, drinking, having sex and driving drunk. Stick your head in the sand if you want, I just hope your kid isn't next on the list of headstones from drunk driving.

Concerned Teenager

Thu, May 17, 2012 : 6:02 p.m.

Drive to Canada.


Fri, Apr 13, 2012 : 3:18 p.m.

I would love for AA dot com to do a story describing one of these senior high school Pepsi Parties MADD and others have forced on our state. I want to hear about all the "fun" that goes on there - must be a riot. Do the kids make goodie bags for each other and break out the glow sticks at midnight?? Gag. It's very clear who has taken over the state and inflicted all this drinking hysteria. Remeber the friends you paritied with in high school in the 70's and 80's - the cool kids? IT'S NOT THEM. The kids who were not invited - geeks, nerds, etc. - who may have been taped to trees, etc. - are now all grown up and paying back entire generations of teens by making absurd fun killing laws "for your own good". So parents will now have to pay more for Spring Break to locations where their kids will not be babied by the grown up geeks in Michgian. Pure Michigan indeed.

Concerned Teenager

Thu, May 17, 2012 : 6:04 p.m.


Helene Epstein

Fri, Apr 13, 2012 : 1:05 p.m.

Mr. Kinsey offers a cogent, informative explanation of parents' responsibilities under the social host law. If you also wish to know what to do if you find underage drinking in your home or to understand the extent of your potential criminal liability under the social host law, meaning the fines and potential for jail time if you permit minors to drink in your home, please visit


Fri, Apr 13, 2012 : 4:21 a.m.

I went to many parties when I was in high school, had a few myself and nobody was ever hurt driving home. It was a great time to be a teenager - before the "moms" took over the legislator and made parties into crime scenes. Not that all was perfect of course - trouble arose for many, years later when the kids who never partied (lets call them the shut-ins) were turned loose at college. Lots of ugly hang-overs, missed exams and a few terms of lousy grades as they figured the rules.


Fri, Apr 13, 2012 : 1:55 a.m.

For anyone who may think it is ok to host a party or overnighter for teens, I can tell you from experience that the consequences are devastating. No, I did not host a party, but my son went to spend the night at a friend's house Spring Break of 2011. They ended up drinking that night. While my son never intended to drive home, he got in a fight with another kid there, before things got violent, he grabbed his keys and got in his car. He was so angry and out of control that no one could stop him. He never made it home. He hit a tree at 90 mph. Point being, you never know what is going to happen. Don't risk it. No parent wants to go through what I have!


Fri, Apr 13, 2012 : 1:47 a.m.

I have now seen 2 or 3 articles on referencing people being "super drunk" is this an official legal classification now? What is "super drunk" .12, .18, .24 inquiring minds must know.


Thu, Apr 19, 2012 : 2:32 p.m.

In Michigan it's .17. (

Basic Bob

Thu, Apr 12, 2012 : 10:05 p.m.

Lock up your weed, too.


Fri, Apr 13, 2012 : 1:45 a.m.

As if high school kids are stealing weed from their parents. I'm pretty sure the easiest place on the planet to get weed is in a high school. At least it was 10 years ago.


Thu, Apr 12, 2012 : 9:28 p.m.

Keggers are as American as obama socialism and apple pie. Everyone have a summer of party filled fun within the guidelines of the law!


Thu, Apr 12, 2012 : 4:48 p.m.

While I don't have a problem with my kids drinking on occasion (under our supervision) I WOULD NEVER give someone else's child a drop of alcohol. They are not my children and I don't feel that I have a right to make that decision for them. And of course there is the liability issue....

Woman in Ypsilanti

Thu, Apr 12, 2012 : 3:48 p.m.

What is so funny about this is that even though I grew up in an environment where alcohol was forbidden and no one's parents were the "cool parents", everyone managed to get pretty drunk at parties anyways. And since I grew up in a place with terrible public transportation and parents who were strict about curfews, there was also quite a bit of drunk driving. As such, I can see the value in hosting an overnight party where the kids can engage in supervised drinking. I wouldn't do it because of our bad laws and the risk of being prosecuted but that is kind of shame because it is likely the safer option.


Thu, Apr 12, 2012 : 9:39 p.m.

The "everybody does it" excuse should die a horrible death. Kids are aware that some parents think it is "no big deal". And I disagree, the laws aren't "bad". They are their to save your kid's lives.

Tex Treeder

Thu, Apr 12, 2012 : 3:30 p.m.

I'm so tired of this moralizing about alcohol. If you Puritans can't handle your alcohol and your own behavior, that's fine, but I'm tired of people telling me that beer is a social evil.

so much nonsense

Thu, Apr 12, 2012 : 3:07 p.m.

"The only exceptions are ......... in an accredited college class under the supervision of a certified faculty member — if it is a course requirement." Exactly what does this mean????


Fri, Apr 13, 2012 : 3:11 a.m.

Upper level chemistry at UM, synthesize your own EtOH's!


Thu, Apr 12, 2012 : 9:36 p.m.

Just sounds hokey to me. Maybe one of those scared straight deals where they encourage kids to get drunk and then see how poorly they drive with a simulator or on a course with cones?


Thu, Apr 12, 2012 : 6:36 p.m.

Could be for culinary schools where it may be important to cook with beer and/or wine. Not to mention if they need to learn how to pair them with dishes. Idk, I'm no foodie, but sounds legit right?

Sara Christensen

Thu, Apr 12, 2012 : 4:36 p.m.

perhaps a course in wine-making or brewing?? I thought that was an odd exception, as well.


Thu, Apr 12, 2012 : 4:03 p.m.

Probably for some off the wall liberal arts socialogy course where learning about another culture require a mean together with alcohol perhaps. Not unheard of.

Ron Granger

Thu, Apr 12, 2012 : 1:13 p.m.

Gosh, I thought the stupid new keg ticket and deposit law would prevent all underage drinking. You say it hasn't solved the problem? Shocking!


Thu, Apr 12, 2012 : 1:10 p.m.

Very timely information. If even one parent is persuaded to follow these guidelines, it will have been worthwhile reminder. Sometimes taking responsibility for your child's upbringing and actions is not easy, but society benefits from it. Isn't that what being a good parent is all about? Lets not hear of any accidents or fatalities in the next couple of months that involve teenage partygoers.

Jerry L.

Thu, Apr 12, 2012 : 12:37 p.m.

Thank you, Mr. Kinsey. This is very helpful information.