Communities all over New York State are doing great activities to keep their teens safe and healthy during prom and graduation season. What can your community do? The possibilities are only limited by your imagination, but don’t feel like you have to reinvent the wheel. Here are ten activities/strategies that your community can do to prevent underage drinking and drug use during prom and graduation season (or the whole year through).
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There are numerous policies that schools can put into place that will promote healthy behavior by teens attending prom. From mandatory parent meetings, required bus rides, and the use of breathalyzers, schools can implement proactive policies that help protect kids.
Pre-prom events. Activities held right before the prom are a way to prevent “pre-gaming” by the teens going to prom. Some substance use prevention coalitions and prevention providers make pre-prom festivities into red carpet events. Local businesses can donate the red carpet, swag bags, velvet ropes and media time. Once inside, coalitions can provide information for parents, food, a make-up touch-up station, and a banner for the seniors to sign. This strategy works well with the bus ride idea listed below.
Savvy prevention coalitions promote their activities before prom and graduation through the media. Some use social media to post pictures from their red carpet events; others use traditional media to reach out to the community to attend and support their events. Other coalitions use media campaigns targeted to parents, based on the social norms behavior change theory. The theory states that correcting misperceptions of perceived norms will most likely result in a decrease in the problem behavior or an increase in the desired behavior. So…if campaigns aimed at parents teach them to relay to their kids the perceived norm that they won’t drink on prom night, kids may be less likely to “follow the crowd” and not drink.
Attach a copy of your community’s social host law to prom tickets or develop a prom contract that is sent to parents and attach the law to it. With this approach, parents must sign that they had read the social host law and the contract and that they agree not to serve alcohol to teens. If you don’t have a social host law in your community, start the discussion to put one in place.
Organize bus rides to and from the prom (some communities make the bus ride mandatory) to curtail drinking before and after the prom. Bus rides are especially effective when done in connection with pre-prom red carpet events and/or after prom activities. Make it fun. Have students design their buses in style with window paint, other creative “dress up” ideas.
Several coalitions across the state conduct or help schools conduct parent programs before prom. These programs are especially effective if parent attendance is mandatory in order for their child to attend the prom. Another way to reach parents is to send out a parent brochure through the mail or attach it to prom tickets. Social host information can be shared at these events as a reminder to parents.
Many coalitions and school districts organize after prom parties as a way to keep teens safe. After prom parties can be held at schools, indoor water parks, YMCAs, churches, etc., wherever there is space for a lot of teens. Some of the activities that are popular at after prom parties are photo booths, inflatable obstacle courses, swimming, magicians, comedy shows, movie nights, talent shows or music performances by students…you name it!
Send a list of local prom and graduation dates to school principals, limousine companies and hotel/motel owners and managers. Include a letter that discourages the use of alcohol in vehicles or in hotel/motel rooms. Also send a letter to law enforcement that reminds them to patrol areas known for underage drinking parties during prom nights and during graduation season. Or do the same with a phone outreach campaign.
Youths, supervised by adults, go into local convenience stores, grocery stores and gas stations and, with permission, put stickers on alcoholic beverages. The stickers highlight the laws against buying alcohol for minors.
Start a new senior class tradition, an all-night alcohol and drug free party after graduation! You’ll have to plan a night of entertainment to keep these high-energy young people busy, but what a memory – of a safe, entertaining, fun night with friends and teachers - they’ll have to take with them on their next adventure, whatever that may be.