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Walters cracks down on underage drinking

Walters_The city of Walters is stepping up enforcement against underage drinking; this after school officials became concerned because nearly 18-percent of eighth grade students reported drinking in the past month.

Tuesday night Walters joined nearly 1,600 other communities across the nation to hold a town hall meeting. City and school officials, along with parents and students came together to start an underage drinking awareness campaign.

They're now trying to pass that social host ordinance that would further punish adults who throw parties and provide alcohol to teens. And an associate district judge says he wants to enforce tougher punishments against those teens too.

Educators used to teach only high school-aged students about the dangers of alcohol, but now they're working with kids as young as eight. "We've always been learning about don't drink and don't do drugs, and stuff like that," said Walters student Cole Hart.

Hart is one of the walters students who is not only choosing not to drink until the age of 21, but he's encouraging other kids not to drink either. "The programs we do, and the facts, I think it kind of scares them, and that's good," Hart said.

But it's not good enough. Parents were shocked by recent statistics that nearly 18-percent of their eighth grade students -- that's 13 year olds -- admitted to drinking in the last month.

But the other thing that concerns them -- where are these teens getting the alcohol? There are already laws on the books against providing alcohol to minors: it's a felony that carries a hefty fine. But the City of Walters wants to follow the lead of some other communities in Texoma, and enact a social host ordinance. But it takes more than just written laws. "The problem we have is with the enforcement with the laws that we already have," said Associate District Judge Micahel C. Flanagan. "I'm not just talking about difficulties with law enforcement, I'm talking about cooperation with parents."

And to further help discourage underage drinking, Judge Flanagan wants to enforce tougher punishments against the teens as well. "Just imposing a fine on the juvenile doesn't help if mom and dad pay the fine," Flanagan said. "So I like to see more progressive measures taken with the juvenile or the child, and make them responsible. Either with community service, or some other kind of penalty which makes them understand their responsibility."

Hart says it's a lot easier for kids to stay away from alcohol if they have other friends that are against it too. Also studies show that teens are less likely to drink if their parents are involved in their lives, enforce rules, and are positive role models

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