Town Hall: Keep Kids Safe & Social

Krista Brenno spoke at the November 3rd Town Hall.

The Town Hall will be broadcast November 20 at 10:30 am and November 21 at 2:30 pm.

“If I teach my children how to drink at home, they will be safe.” At least, that’s the mistaken thinking of some parents who allow their children to host drinking parties, according to Krista Brenno. She is the Senior Assistance Counselor at Osseo Senior High School, and she took part in a town hall this month to educate parents about keeping their children safe and social.

Underage drinking has enormous social and individual consequences, Brenno explained. “Using substances puts kids in high-risk situations. It can bring about depression, anxiety, mood issues, and emotional issues. Young people can get in the habit of thinking these substances are helping, and they are actually hindering their development. They are not standing around and having a drink, they are binge drinking to excess.”

Local chemical, education and law enforcement professionals discussed emotional, physical and legal consequences to both parents and youth for allowing underage drinking on their property. Most cities in northwest Hennepin County have a Social Host Ordinance, which makes it illegal to host a party where there is underage alcohol consumption. Osseo’s ordinance has even more teeth than any other city in the state by including underage use of illegal drugs.

Shane Mikkelson spoke as both a parent and Osseo Police Chief. He said if one of his children came home after drinking, he would call the police, allow them to issue consequences to his child, and hold those accountable who allowed the drinking. “As a chief, I would expect someone to trust us enough to call us and give consequences to your child, and whether that means a citation, hopefully they will learn from that. I know a lot of parents have concerns about those consequences, but in the long run, I think it’s better if they have those consequences.”

Panelists also gave tips for parents communicating with their children and other parents. “Ditch the mentality of ‘not my kid,’ because, you know what? It really can be any kid,” explained Rose McKinney, a local writer, mother and creator of Our Young Addicts. She knows firsthand, as her son is in recovery from substance abuse. She advises parents to make their home the gathering spot. “Pay attention to back packs, provide beverages, provide food and check in on the kids. Make sure kids have a ride home. When your kid goes to someone else’s house, you need to see the other adult. Give them your name and number.”

And if parents find out their child was allowed to drink in another home? Call the police, panelists advised. While that may feel extreme to some, it will have a chilling effect in the community, according to attorney Steve Tallen, a former police officer, who prosecutes for several Hennepin County cities. “When the parents can tell the parents of the other children all the grief they went through because they let the kids have the graduation party in the back yard, it spreads around, because frankly, many of these folks don’t have a clue that there is anything wrong in what they are doing.”

For parents concerned about calling the police, Maple Grove Detective Angela Tschida stressed callers can remain anonymous. “A lot of the tips we get come from neighbors, they come from people who left the party and felt uncomfortable with what was going on, they come from concerned parents in advance because they have heard amongst the kids that this party will be happening.”

When callers wish to remain anonymous, Tschida said, “we will develop our own reasons for making contact with the house, whether its things we can see from plain view from the outside, whether its from people leaving the party intoxicated, anything like that.” She said the ordinance acts as a deterrent. “It’s about the community and keeping the community safe.”

Brenno, the educator, talked about parents’ misguided impression that drinking at home is safe. She said parents don’t know if their children’s friends “have existing mental health issues, we don’t know if they are on medications, we don’t know if they have a potential history of addiction in their family and so it’s not only unsafe but unfair to put those kids in that situation; to say, ‘hey we are going to offer you a safe place to drink,’ because that is not what happens when a lot of these kids get into a high risk situation, and that’s harmful.”

The panelists agreed the Social Host Ordinance is an important tool in preventing youth from using alcohol. In the northwest suburbs of Hennepin County, Brooklyn Park, Crystal, Golden Valley, Maple Grove, New Hope, Osseo and Plymouth have Social Host Ordinances. Robbinsdale and Brooklyn Center do not.

Parents in Robbinsdale and Brooklyn Center who would like to see an ordinance in their communities need to let their city councils know, Mikkelson advised. He said the chances of enacting an ordinance increase with the backing of community groups, schools, and groups like Partnership for Change. “Social change starts with people becoming social with each other, coming behind a common goal. That public outcry can cause chiefs of police and elected officials to start to listen. If your community doesn’t have a Social Host Ordinance and you feel that it’s something that should be in your community, then you need to speak up.”

Town Hall presenters included Maple Grove Police Chief Eric Werner, Lindsey Smith, Regional Prevention Coordinator, Detective Angela Tschida of Maple Grove Police Department, Osseo Police Chief Shane Mikkelson, Rose McKinney, of Our Young Addicts, Krista Brenno, from Osseo Area Schools, Steve Tallen, an attorney who prosecutes cases for Maple Grove and Teresa Lunt, Community Chair of Partnership for Change.

The town hall will be broadcast on Northwest Cable Channel 12 November 20 at 10:30 p.m. and November 21 at 2:30 p.m.

The Town Hall was sponsored by North Memorial Health Care and Partnership for Change.

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