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Social Host law prevents underage drinking at graduation parties

DUNCAN, Okla._Graduation, it's what high school seniors have been looking forward to all year and now it's almost here.

Most all southwest Oklahoma high schools will be handing out diplomas to seniors next week, which means it's time to celebrate. For some teens, celebration can mean underage drinking, and unfortunately, some parents even allow their children and friends to do it right under their roof.

In a 2012 study, over 80 percent of seniors in Comanche County reported drinking alcohol at a party within the last year. Even worse, in a survey of sixth, eighth and twelfth graders, a majority of students said if they did drink that they got it from their home with their parent’s permission.

Many parents think it's fine for their kids and friends to celebrate with a drink, but what parents aren't thinking about is that it's setting a bad example and they are actually breaking the law and could get in quite a bit of trouble.

"It's kind of scary that there are that many parents willing to host. It's almost like it's a rite of passage, especially around graduation time. It's like this is how we celebrate type of thing and like I said it shouldn't be," said Brook McCuiston with the Wichita Mountains Prevention Network

McCuiston says social hosting has become the norm for a lot of parents.

"I think that a lot of parents are trying to relive their high school days. They say ‘well I did it and I turned out okay, so it's not that big of a deal for my child’," said McCuiston.

Duncan High School parents have been offering an alternative celebration for years and this year they've worked hard to plan a night of fun in a drug and alcohol free environment.

"I think they will see how much the adults in our community care about them and that we want them to be safe and successful and hopefully that will stick with them," said Lea Henricks, Duncan parent.

McCuiston says she can't stress enough that teens and adults don't need to drink to have a good time.

"I think having those in the school, it is helpful to just not think about those things even if it is for just one night. To know that you can celebrate in a way that's not illegal," said McCuiston.

Under Oklahoma's “Social Host” law, it's illegal to provide a place for underage drinking parties. The statute applies in both the city and county and includes property owners and renters.

Fines for the first offense can be as much as $500. For a third offense, you are charged with a felony and could face up to five years in prison.

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