Parents, be aware to avoid prom problems this year

By: Tiffany Esshaki | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published April 22, 2015

BIRMINGHAM/BLOOMFIELD — Prom is so much more than a perfect dress, a tailored tux and a night full of memories.

It’s a rite of passage for teens celebrating the close of one chapter before they step into the next phase of their young lives.

But all that excitement could bring those next-step plans to a screeching halt if a student makes irresponsible choices when celebrating. Drinking or using drugs could have detrimental consequences for their future and could also mean serious penalties for the adults in their life.

For a decade now, the Birmingham-Bloomfield Community Coalition has been working to prevent that very thing from happening. According to Carol Mastroianni, executive director of the BBCC, the group launches a massive mailing campaign this time each year to educate families on the problems associated with underage drinking if things go wrong.

“We truly believe knowledge is power, and we have a very well-educated community both of adults and teens, and we truly believe that if people understand the laws and consequences of those laws, they’re able to make better decisions,” she said.

For more than 20 years, the nonprofit has been working to make parents and students in the Birmingham-Bloomfield community aware of the dangers of teen drug and alcohol abuse. The group serves families in 10 school districts, and the spring mailer campaign — to coincide with the celebratory prom and graduation season — is one of its largest efforts.

Mastroianni said that in this 10th year of spring mailings, the group has expanded the campaign in two ways: They’ve included ninth- and 10th-graders, in addition to juniors and seniors, and they’ve included information about prescription drug abuse along with the usual facts about underage alcohol consumption.

“The whole high school needs to understand this, not just those attending prom. And we also added the piece about disposing of unwanted medications and how to “teen-proof” your home, because that’s really a new element to think about,” she said.

Back in late December, the Franklin-Bingham Farms police station became the new home of an Operation Medicine Cabinet drug disposal box. With that, every police department in the BBCC’s service area has a means of disposing of prescription drugs to keep potentially dangerous narcotics out of the hands of teens.

“Statistically, persons who become addicted to prescription drugs obtain those drugs through family and friends who were prescribed those drugs legitimately, but were not using those drugs at the time and left them sitting in the cabinet, or because they no longer wanted them, they weren’t needed or they were expired,” said Bloomfield Hills Public Safety Chief David Hendrickson in December, when a disposal box was installed at his station.

The literature that was mailed home includes warnings not only against substance abuse but also social media safety, which could also have ramifications for students in the future.

“If they post photos on social media (that are illicit), college recruiters look at that,” Mastroianni explained. “Growing up, we had none of that, but today it can impact your college prospects or job opportunities. Or, like if you’re a college athlete, for instance, they expect you to be an athlete 24/7, 365 days a year. It’s a matter of being thoughtful about the choices you make.”

Parents should also be thoughtful about the choices they and their children make. Mastroianni explained that parents who excuse underage drinking in their home because they believe it’s safer could be in major trouble with the law.

In fact, parents — or any other people — who knowingly allow or provide alcohol or illegal drugs at their home or any other location in which people under the age of 21 congregate are committing a misdemeanor. If convicted, parents may be fined and sentenced up to 93 days in jail, according to Hendrickson.

But that doesn’t mean that ignorance is bliss, either.

“Some parents don’t realize that if it’s happening in their home, they’re supposed to be supervising and can be held responsible, even though they might believe they’re not if they don’t see it,” he explained. “It’s a huge liability not only criminally but civilly.”

He agreed with Mastroianni that choices made by students, despite their young and impressionable age, can have a big impact on their future.

“Most importantly, we’re trying to keep our teens safe and from developing a bad habit of substance abuse. It seems these days that many young people have alcohol offenses on their record — many of which are minor in possession — and it follows them around,” he said. “They don’t realize when they’re out of school and they go to get a job, it could show a lack of judgement and character and prevent them from getting that job over someone else with a clean record.”

For more information and tips on preventing substance abuse, call (248) 203-4615 or visit


Safe, sober and ready to celebrate!
Kelly Michaud, coordinator of youth programs with the Birmingham-Bloomfield Community Coalition, shared some ideas that parents can use to keep the party going for students once the dance is over on prom night.

• Rally the troops: A group of teens can be a lot for one parent to chaperone, so try to enlist a couple of parents for support. Be prepared for a late night — potentially all night.

• Establish a guest list: Know who’s coming, and who’s going home with whom and when. Make sure everyone has a safe, direct ride home. Open house-type parties are discouraged.

• VIP only: Students can use social media, but use a controlled or closed group so posts can be monitored.

• Red carpet treatment: Greet guests at the door to make sure no one brings their own beverages. Only approved drinks provided by the host should be allowed.

• Think board, not bored: Who would’ve thought that teens actually love board games? Makes sure there’s plenty to do, and games that provide lots of interaction between guests are best. Don’t be stingy with snacks, nonalcoholic beverages and up-tempo music.