The Auburn, Alabama, community is working together to make sure graduation night is a safe one.
In an effort to keep underage drinking out of graduation celebrations and keep students from drunk driving arrests, the Auburn High School community is hosting Project Graduation, a tradition for about two decades. After the 500 or so students graduate, they will spend one last evening together at school, sharing a night of fun without alcohol.
One parent said that graduation night traditionally is a night that students test their adulthood, and that includes drinking. But not at Auburn, where the dance floor, disc jockey, games, prizes and food will be available until 3 a.m., all with adult supervision and without alcohol. With still some time left before the event, about 70 percent of the graduating class had bought tickets for grad night.
Police will be on hand at the party and also will heighten patrols in town to make sure students obey the laws and stay out of trouble. An assistant police chief said police will be visible and on the lookout for teens consuming alcohol. But this also increases the likelihood that people driving sober could be unfairly targeted by police who are trying to make arrests.
A survey done during the 2009-10 school year in Auburn showed that 58 percent of the high school's seniors had consumed alcohol in the previous year.
The night is just part of the efforts by the Lee County Coalition Advocating Responsible Environments to curb underage drinking. The group held a town hall meeting last month to discuss the dangers of drinking and driving and to stress that while teens might feel invincible, they aren't.
Organizers said they also want students to know what could happen to them legally should they be charged with drunk driving. An underage drinker is considered legally drunk in Alabama with a blood alcohol content of 0.02, compared to 0.08 for an adult. Fines also start at $600, and a DUI conviction could mean a loss of driving rights and jail time. It's also easy for breath test equipment to be poorly calibrated, meaning someone could easily blow more than 0.02.
Source: The Auburn Villager, "AHS's Project Graduation aims to prevent drinking," Alison McFerrin, May 17, 2012