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Dance lessons

Lezlie Lowe is all for teachable moments. Even at dances.

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Downing a half-and-half mixture of lemon gin and Strawberry Passion Awareness Fruitopia siphoned into an empty Coke can and stumbling to the high-school dance? It’s now a thing of the past for students at four Halifax high schools where administrators have cancelled casual dances for the rest of the year.

And thank christ for that. At least the gin and Fruitopia part.

Some schools are planning ice- cream socials and lunch-hour sock-hops to fill the void, presumably crossing their fingers those events won’t also be marked by drunkenness and accompanying lascivious dance moves. Here’s a better idea: keep the dances, keep the alcohol, put the parents in charge.

Teenagers are going to experiment with alcohol. You can’t change that. The only difference for the teens who used to drink and attend dances at Queen Elizabeth, St. Patrick’s, Eastern Shore District and Halifax West high schools is that now, for a few more Saturday nights, they’ll be loaded and set loose on the streets of Halifax rather than in the school gymnasium.

Look, praying for abstinence doesn’t work when it comes to teen sex and it’s not going to work when it comes to drinking alcohol. That’s the first thing everyone has to swallow. Here’s the second: Appropriate and safe social drinking—just like shoe-tying, laundry-sorting and car-driving—is a learned ability. You don’t get to know how to draw the line between mild, enjoyable intoxication and fall-on-your-face smashed by means of osmosis. You do it sip by sip by sip.

The question for most students isn’t whether they’ll gain that skill, it’s when and where: under a tree on the Common? In the back of someone’s car? In the woods? After the 15th time they’ve passed out in a snow bank? After they’ve already turned 19 but wasted the first semester of university binge-drinking their way triumphantly through their new-found freedom?

Giving teenagers alcohol, a safe place to drink, supervision and the knowledge that alcohol needs to be enjoyed in moderation may be taboo. But it’s also the safest and most merciful way I can think of for teenagers to do something they’re going to do anyway.

And that’s where parents come in.

At a Halifax Regional Council meeting on October 10, council passed a motion asking the province to adopt a law making parents of under-18s financially responsible for their kids’ property crimes. The move is an effort to make sure parents are doing everything in their power to encourage their spawn to act in a civil manner.

So, if we can propose that for vandalism, why not also for dealing with public drunkenness?

High-school dances should not be testing grounds for alcohol poisoning. If students go to dances hammered—falling over, puking, passing out—they should be sent home. Teachers and dance chaperones shouldn’t have to be responsible for wasted teens.

And now, at the four Halifax schools that have cancelled dances, they won’t be. But washing their hands of the matter isn’t helping students any. It’s letting school administrators off the hook and keeping the onus off parents too. It’s a win-win scenario—for everyone but the teens. aDowning a half-and-half mixture of lemon gin and Strawberry Passion Awareness Fruitopia siphoned into an empty Coke can and stumbling to the high-school dance? It’s now a thing of the past for students at four Halifax high schools where administrators have cancelled casual dances for the rest of the year.

And thank christ for that. At least the gin and Fruitopia part.

Some schools are planning ice- cream socials and lunch-hour sock-hops to fill the void, presumably crossing their fingers those events won’t also be marked by drunkenness and accompanying lascivious dance moves. Here’s a better idea: keep the dances, keep the alcohol, put the parents in charge.

Teenagers are going to experiment with alcohol. You can’t change that. The only difference for the teens who used to drink and attend dances at Queen Elizabeth, St. Patrick’s, Eastern Shore District and Halifax West high schools is that now, for a few more Saturday nights, they’ll be loaded and set loose on the streets of Halifax rather than in the school gymnasium.

Look, praying for abstinence doesn’t work when it comes to teen sex and it’s not going to work when it comes to drinking alcohol. That’s the first thing everyone has to swallow. Here’s the second: Appropriate and safe social drinking—just like shoe-tying, laundry-sorting and car-driving—is a learned ability. You don’t get to know how to draw the line between mild, enjoyable intoxication and fall-on-your-face smashed by means of osmosis. You do it sip by sip by sip.

The question for most students isn’t whether they’ll gain that skill, it’s when and where: under a tree on the Common? In the back of someone’s car? In the woods? After the 15th time they’ve passed out in a snow bank? After they’ve already turned 19 but wasted the first semester of university binge-drinking their way triumphantly through their new-found freedom?

Giving teenagers alcohol, a safe place to drink, supervision and the knowledge that alcohol needs to be enjoyed in moderation may be taboo. But it’s also the safest and most merciful way I can think of for teenagers to do something they’re going to do anyway.

And that’s where parents come in.

At a Halifax Regional Council meeting on October 10, council passed a motion asking the province to adopt a law making parents of under-18s financially responsible for their kids’ property crimes. The move is an effort to make sure parents are doing everything in their power to encourage their spawn to act in a civil manner.

So, if we can propose that for vandalism, why not also for dealing with public drunkenness?

High-school dances should not be testing grounds for alcohol poisoning. If students go to dances hammered—falling over, puking, passing out—they should be sent home. Teachers and dance chaperones shouldn’t have to be responsible for wasted teens.

And now, at the four Halifax schools that have cancelled dances, they won’t be. But washing their hands of the matter isn’t helping students any. It’s letting school administrators off the hook and keeping the onus off parents too. It’s a win-win scenario—for everyone but the teens.

Share memories of high school dances with me by email: lezliel@thecoast.ca

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