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Parents unite to confront teen drinking

NORTH BEND - For some parents, teen drinking is met with the response of "kids will be kids." But when a parent finds their young teen has been rushed to the hospital to have their stomach pumped because they've passed out from alcohol poisoning, a parent's tune often changes.

When an incident like this occurs, usually parents begin asking, what went wrong? How do teens get alcohol in the first place? What can police, schools, government and parents do about teen drinking? One place parents of teens can go for answers is an organization called Parent Party Patrol.

The local chapter of parents, law officials and city council members was started by Darla Kohlruss of North Bend near this time last year after her daughter went to an unchaperoned party. The organization was originally founded in 1994 in Pierce County by Linda Elliot. Elliot now spreads her message of protecting teens and making parents aware of groups that want to take action on teen alcohol use.

"Every parent is naive, not naturally suspect," Kohlruss said. "And it takes just one incident to open their eyes about what teens do. What our group wants to do is make parents aware of what kids are doing today. Our mission is to be an informative organization to parents of teens of the dangers that are in and around our homes and communities, and to make them aware of the financial consequences if a party is held in their homes, whether they are aware of it or not."

The Parent Party Patrol of North Bend consists of Kohlruss, North Bend City Council members Fred Rappin and Elaine Webber, Two Rivers Alternative School teacher Jack Webber, Susan Blaker of the Washington State Liquor Board, Mount Si High School resource officers Paul Graham and Bob Keeton of the Snoqualmie Department of Public Safety, Officer Mike Hastings of the King County Sheriff's Office and various parents.

The Parent Party Patrol has several goals. One is to create awareness so parents will begin monitoring their children's' activities, with the hope that parents will not be afraid to question teens about where they are going, with whom and when. Another goal is to create an expansive parent network so parents can call others in the group to make sure teens are going where and doing what they originally claimed.

"If not, then the parent knows something's up," Kohlruss said. "[The idea is] not to just give curfews to their kids and never ask them about their activities, as long as they are home on time. You need to know what they were doing, and where." She added that it is important that parents get to know their teen's friends and the friends' parents in order to keep teens safe.

Parents who join the network can either enter their name and phone number, or pledge one of two things: They will notify other parents if they are hosting a non-alcoholic party for teens, so parents know the party is safe; and they will be available to pick up teens who have been drinking, as a safety measure and so the teen doesn't necessarily have to face his or her parents during such an event.

Besides starting the parent network, the Parent Party Patrol has been quite active this past year in creating change. Most recently, it had bright orange signs that read "Under 21 - Zero Tolerance for Alcohol" installed by every road entering North Bend. The signs were funded by the city of North Bend.

"There is strictly a no-tolerance policy in North Bend. That's the message we are sending," said Sgt. Grant Stewart of King County Sheriff's Office, North Bend substation. He explained that "no tolerance" means if a minor is caught with alcohol on their breath, that is considered possession, which may result in legal prosecution.

Mount Si High School, in cooperation with the parent group, is holding an event during lunchtime on April 17, featuring the Washington State Patrol's K-9 unit. During the event, students will be able to try on "fatal vision goggles," a set of goggles with lenses that show how vision is impaired with drinking.

Other activities during the month will include the airing of a Parent Party Patrol video on local access Channel 21, and Mount Si High health teachers will kick off their drug and alcohol study units. Then from 7 to 9 p.m. on May 8 in the Mount Si High School auditorium, local trainer and speaker Kevin Haggarty will present the results of the Washington State Survey of Adolescent Behaviors study.

For more information or to join the Parent Party Patrol or parent network, call Darla Kohlruss at (425) 888-2284.

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