Around fifty Knoxville residents attended an open discussion this week to talk about how to decrease teenage drinking and drug use in Knoxville including city council and school board members along with both Marion County Attorney Candidates, Ed Bull and Dawn Bowman.
The discussion included a presentation from Amy Schutte, a Certified Prevention Specialist from Employee and Family Resources. Schutte shared data on teenage alcohol, tobacco and drug use in Knoxville taken from a Iowa Youth Survey in 2005 and 2008, along with tips on how to recognize the signs that your child may be using these substances and ways to encourage them to make the right decisions.
Police Chief Dan Losada touched on the legal consequences and many parents were surprised to hear that if a teen is drinking on private property they will not face criminal charges unless officers catch them in possession of a container of alcohol. Losada says this is something that differs in different areas across the state but judges in Marion County have decided that possession of alcohol in the bloodstream is not enough to criminally charge individuals under 21, unless they are in a public place. Losada also stated that it is crucial for parents to talk to their children about drinking and drug use often and hold them accountable for their decisions.
High School Principal Kevin Crawford spoke about the code of conduct and consequences for students who are caught with alcohol. Crawford states that students will be punished if they are caught with alcohol one of four ways, including criminal charges or the school being informed of an incident by the police, admitting to the crime, getting caught by a school teacher or administrator or by showing obvious signs of use. Students that are involved in athletics or other extracurricular activities will be suspended for a for a period of time, determined by whether it was their first, second or third offense. However, if a student is not involved in activities and is not caught on school grounds there is no way the school can punish them.
Attendees were also able to ask questions during the event and voice their opinions on the topics. The majority of people in attendance agreed that alcohol and drugs are an issue in the Knoxville area and it will take the parents, school, law enforcement and the community working together to help reduce the amount of use in Knoxville.