Underage drinking was to be the serious topic discussed by a group of concerned community leaders, parents and students at a town hall meeting in San Ramon.

Coordinated by the Youth Community Advisory Board of the Community Against Substance Abuse (CASA) and the Monte Vista Chapter of Friday Night Live, the meeting was to be held Tuesday to create an awareness of the danger in thinking it's "no big deal" that young people are consuming alcohol, says Patty Hoyt, coordinator of the San Ramon Valley Alcohol Policy Coalition.

The meeting is a way to "mobilize the community to change social norms or attitudes relating to the use of alcohol, to control the availability of alcohol, and to strengthen enforcement of laws and regulations governing its use," Hoyt said.

In this season of proms, graduations and summer parties around the corner, "What you can't do is nothing," said Dave Williams, youth resource officer with the San Ramon Police Department and one of the evening's speakers.

He adds that it's not uncommon for parents to think they are providing a safe haven for kids to gather and drink. These parents, he adds, are "not aware of certain laws that make them liable for the actions of their kids." San Ramon currently has a "social host" ordinance; under that, adults who provide alcohol to underage guests at gatherings in their homes can be cited and fined $1,000.

It's a matter of educating the kids and the parents, he adds.


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Williams adds that the community cannot address underage drinking and alcohol without speaking about marijuana use as well.

"There's not a single month when I haven't had a case involving a student having possession of marijuana at school," he says. And that's in addition to cases of possession outside of school.

"There's a casual attitude toward (marijuana)," he says. With the legalization of marijuana is many jurisdictions, "everything is telling them (that) marijuana is OK," but like alcohol, "it impairs judgment." Hoyt says that they "hope to get a groundswell of support for enforcement of existing policy and for establishing additional policy" -- for example, the creation of a uniform policy to prevent alcohol and other drugs from getting into school dances.

"Currently, all four high schools (in the district) have different procedures. I hope the town hall will get supporters of this work," she adds.

According to the latest California Healthy Kids Survey administered to San Ramon Valley School District students, 11 percent of ninth-graders and 26 percent of 11th-graders reported having had at least one drink in the past 30 days. Fifteen percent of 11th-graders report binge drinking in the past 30 days. (Binge drinking is defined as five or more drinks at a time).

Marijuana use was surveyed as well, with 5 percent of ninth-graders and 15 percent of 11th-graders reporting using it in the past 30 days. Some parents "are very concerned and aware of the problem (of underage alcohol and drug use). They seek help to figure out a course of action," which, Williams says, is encouraging.

On the other hand, "There are parents who don't see it as a big deal. That frustrates me," he says. What kind of message is that sending to the kids?

HEALTH FAIR: The Bishop Ranch Wellness and Safety Fair is Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. outside of Bishop Ranch 3, 2623 Camino Ramon.

The free event will feature dozens of vendors with information on health, diet and exercise. There will be interactive demonstrations and free cholesterol screening, bone density tests, blood pressure checks and chair massages. Come and enjoy healthy refreshments, giveaways and raffles for fun prizes. The American Red Cross will also be there to accept you donations of blood.

The Food Truck Mafia lineup will be available with items to purchase for lunch. For more information, contact Bishop Ranch Community and Outreach at 925-543-0100.

Contact Monica Lander at landerfamily@comcast.net.

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