According to the Florida Department of Education, there are approximately 200,000 high school seniors in our state. Most of those students will be graduating in the coming weeks. We want all of them to make it safely to the day after graduation…
Graduation is a time for celebration, but it can also be a dangerous time for students. The start of summer already has teens thinking about less responsibility and more fun; adding a milestone such as graduation to the mix gives many students an excuse to party more than they normally would. Unfortunately, in the process, these graduates might endanger their health and risk the safety of others. This can lead to tragedy for students right after one of the most significant achievements of their young lives.
Florida high schools face a tough challenge: celebrating graduation while keeping their new graduates safe. Solving this challenge is important because schools work so hard to get students their diplomas and send them out into the world—that world shouldn’t end the night they receive those diplomas.
Celebrations, not Bashes
Graduation should be a reason to celebrate—students have successfully completed one phase of their lives and will move on to the next. Teachers at Florida high schools, families, communities and students themselves have the right to be proud. However, too often, the celebration gives way to dangerous parties.
Family parties aren’t as much an issue; even if the student’s friends are invited, no one will get too crazy in front of the grandparents and other relatives. Unsupervised, non-family graduation parties are the bigger problem—happy students gathering with the intention of cutting loose and getting wasted because, well, “We graduated!” Teens who have never drank much before might be tempted to try for the first time. Experienced teen drinkers might push their limits even further. These bashes invite grads to get wild, and the consequences can be severe, even tragic.
Do Parents Make It Worse?
Unfortunately, parents are sometimes part of the problem. They might think, “My son has graduated, it’s OK for him to drink now,” and allow him a beer or two at the family graduation party. This sends the wrong message and potentially sets that teen up to think it will be OK for him to drink all summer because, “Mom and Dad let me do it.” Even worse, a few parents will allow their kids to host a graduation party for friends, with alcohol. Besides the legal ramifications (it is incredibly illegal to serve minors alcohol and exposes parents to immense liability), parents rarely exert the control over such a party, contrary to what they might think. As already mentioned, graduating seniors often take their partying up a notch. A “supervised” party can quickly deteriorate with unexpected guests and teens who become too drunk too quickly.
What Florida High Schools Can Do
The issue many Florida high schools face is that graduates want to celebrate with each other, but there are few avenues to safely do so. As a result, teens create their own opportunities to celebrate, usually in an unsupervised setting with alcohol and drugs. Schools can’t do much to stop parties the rest of the summer, but at least for graduation weekend (when kids are probably the most amped up), they can sponsor celebrations that reward students for all their hard work over the years. Carnivals, lock-ins, dances and class trips to amusement parks or water parks are events students will love that also can be properly supervised and safe.
Safe Homes, Smart Parties
Inevitably, some parents will still allow their graduates to throw parties for friends, and this is fine … if the parties are supervised, ground rules are set, strict guest lists are adhered to and no alcohol is permitted. Informed Families sponsors our Safe Homes, Smart Parties campaign to help parents ensure any parties at their homes are safe for guests. Encourage parents to check out our resources and to be smart allies with you during graduation season.
One more thing: Congratulations to all of Florida’s high school graduates this spring and to all the teachers who have devoted themselves to student success year after year!
How does your school celebrate graduation?