Parents, officials square off at forum on teen partying

When it comes to teen parties, La Cañada parents, school officials and police agree on two things—the consequences of drinking and drug use can be grave and the rules that prevent it should be enforced.

But agreement seemed to end there Wednesday night, when parents and officials squared off at a forum hosted by the Community Prevention Council (CPC) of La Cañada Flintridge and the city’s public safety commission on who’s ultimately responsible for keeping kids safe in world gone wild.

The forum’s panel included students, local law enforcement officials, pediatrician Leonard “Skip” Baker and LCUSD Board President Susan Boyd. Acting as moderator, CPC Chairman Ken Moffitt led a Q&A session for community members.

Some asked what more schools could do to make kids aware of the dangers of substance abuse. Lauren Kambe, a La Cañada High School senior and LCF Youth Council member, said there are so many programs aimed at students that the message gets lost.

Baker agreed, saying there’s no evidence to suggest anti-drug programs have a long-term effect on the habits of teens. “Just scaring kids doesn’t work,” he added.

Panelists and audience members shared anecdotes of parties where parents allowed or even served alcohol to minors. “There are too many parents in this community who think it’s OK,” Boyd said. “Kids are getting the message that it’s OK if you go to the right house.”

Law enforcement officials pointed the finger at parents, detailing the legal consequences and liabilities that could be leveled at parents who condone drinking and asking why parents would allow teens to attend parties they hadn’t personally investigated beforehand.

“You are there to be a parent. It’s your responsibility to know what your 16-year-old is doing all the time,” said Mark Slater, a traffic sergeant with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department who’s investigated more than 100 collision fatalities.”If someone makes a bad choice, it isn’t an accident—it’s criminal.”

Pasadena Deputy District Attorney Anna Phillips encouraged parents to call the police with tips on parties where young people were drinking or being served alcohol, despite the risk of being labeled a “snitch.”

“If people really know about a house where this is happening, I would be appalled if (they) didn’t do something about it,” Phillips said.

Most panelists, including the students themselves, agreed that open communication between parents and teens is the most effective way to prevent and combat substance abuse.

“There’s really not much you can do to keep alcohol out of the hands of teenagers,” Kambe said. “If you have a good relationship with your kids, that’s the most important thing.”

Resources and tips for parents of adolescents can be found in the Community Prevention Council’s free publication, “The Small Book of Big Issues,” available for download at

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