Teach the children well | VailDaily.com

Teach the children well

Don Rogers
Laura Mahaffy/lmahaffy@theunion.com | The Union

No one connected to the epic kegger north of Wolcott acquitted themselves especially well.

Not the underage drinkers, certainly not the parents who complained about the comparatively mild consequences and, alas, not even the officers at the scene who may well have saved a life or two or three while breaking up the giant party in the woods.

Drinking and driving easily stands out as the most dangerous activity in our community, made no less so than the casualness with which we accept this risk while having inane debates and legislation about guns. Our fears are well out of proportion with what is most likely to harm or kill us.

Throw in the overlay of teen-age drinking, several generations’ worth of warm memories about wild parties while we were young, an adult culture that embraces alcohol and good times, and we have a fascinating meeting last Friday between the sheriff and community at Battle Mountain High School.

By the way, big kudos to Sheriff Joe Hoy and the parents who organized this discussion. The full range of views was expressed, from the harm of being cited for engaging in a rite of passage to the deadly results that happen too often and the black marks on young people’s records to accepting responsibility for one’s actions.

This encounter was a first that I remember here following one of who knows how many such parties over the years. What it exposed did not reflect well on some parents, kids or cops who stepped into some moral low ground in pursuit of a higher aim. But I have to say that I respect the honesty of those who spoke up, although I hope some of their views change with more reflection.

The biggest problem, hands down, is the parents trying to rationalize and downplay the behavior of their kids who were drinking at the party. This is a societal challenge when adults fail to take responsibility and wind up teaching their kids that it’s OK to fail to own up to their illegal actions.

You may disagree over the enduring question of whether is should be against the law for adolescents to drink, but the greater community has settled this question pretty definitively. And I can’t say I mind steps to make sure your drunken kid isn’t on the road with me or my family. To you I have two words: Grow. Up.

On the scale of sins committed at the party, the cops’ was the least. The kids cited for minor in possession offenses did not earn them because the cops fooled them into coming back after running away. They violated the law, period. They deserved what they got.

But if I’m the sheriff or another supervisor, while I may have defended the officers in public, sorry, I’m reaming them back at headquarters. There’s a consequence to failing to be truthful while wearing the badge. And it should be obvious by now to the sheriff that it’s viewed widely enough in the community as just wrong.

But the parents of cited teens who are crying foul have no leg to stand on. Let’s be clear about that. Their self-interest is obvious, and far more wrong.

Still, ugh. The cops have a higher standard than that.

Ultimately, the biggest issue is what today’s adolescents, dealing now with an adult consequence in the twilight of their childhood, pass on to their children someday.

I hope they aren’t as ridiculous — and dangerous — as their parents today.

Editor and Publisher Don Rogers can be reached at drogers@vaildaily.com or 970-748-2920.

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