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Our View: Prevention, enforcement and rehabilitation are all
necessary in the fight against teen drug and alcohol abuse
Gilroy teens are drinking in shocking numbers, and drug use is on the rise. That’s according to school officials and a state survey. Making things worse is the complacent attitude many teens exhibit toward substance abuse.

“I think right now drugs are talked about nonchalantly,” Tom Hernandez of El Portal Leadership Academy told reporter Kristen Munson. “I think it kind of trickles down to the kids and they become desensitized to it.”

We hope the South Valley community will take a multi-pronged approach toward combating this problem. Universities have begun to successfully battle alcohol abuse at fraternities and sororities. One of their most successful tools is the revocation of charters of Greek organizations that don’t play by the rules. Let’s all take a page from their handbook.

First, as always, is parental supervision. It comes first because nothing replaces involved, observant and proactive parenting in helping kids avoid drug and alcohol use.

Make sure your kids know that drug and alcohol use is forbidden. If the rules are violated, provide swift and severe consequences. Make sure your kids know never to get into a vehicle with someone who has taken drugs or alcohol.

Parents who catch a child drinking or using drugs should revoke their driver’s license for six months. If your child doesn’t have a license, delay getting it. Perhaps our state legislators can codify this punishment for kids who are caught and convicted of drinking or using drugs.

City officials should take a similar approach when it comes to battling the sale of alcohol to minors. State Alcohol and Beverage Control agents can recommend revocation of a liquor license if a business is caught selling to minors. That’s not enough. Gilroy needs an ordinance that revokes for 30 days the business license for any business – retail or restaurant – that is cited more than once for selling alcohol to minors.

It’s one thing to not be able to sell beer or wine for a month; it’s another matter entirely to not be able to sell anything for a month. Perhaps with stiffer consequences, businesses will get serious about checking IDs before selling alcohol.

Finally, we must provide better substance abuse prevention and recovery programs for youth here in South County. We must provide ways to convince our youth not to start drinking or using drugs, and to help those who do to kick the habits.

When 25 percent of our freshman say they’ve had alcohol at least four times in one year, when 37 percent of juniors admit to drinking and driving, and when 60 percent of local teens say it’s easy to get alcohol, we’ve got a big problem on our hands.

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