District Attorney Danny Craig wants parents to know that they are their children's most important and powerful influence.
On Monday, it was a message he conveyed to a group of parents, teachers and teens at Riverside Middle School during a presentation open to the public about how the law can affect teens and their parents.
Craig said parents need to understand the importance of their responsibility to set a good example for their children.
"How important it is for parents to know that the child is watching every move you make, listening to every word you say because he is only going to get his morals and values, sense of virtue and his work ethic in your home," Craig told the group of mostly parents. "He can't get it anywhere else. You are the one who has to tell him."
Craig explained law as it pertains to drugs, alcohol and sexual relations among teens and a parent's legal responsibility in the actions of their child.
"As sad as it is that we are having to say this to 12- and 13-year-olds, we have to say it," Riverside Middle Assistant Principal Merrell Garner said, referring to her middle school students. "But these laws apply to them, that's why we have to say this ... Because they emulate their older peers and their older brothers and sisters, they don't know the consequences of what they do until they get into trouble for it."
Craig warned of the dangers of being the "cool parent," especially in the upcoming prom season. Craig said prom after-parties can lead to legal problems for teens and parents playing host to the party, if alcohol or drugs are provided or allowed to be consumed by minors.
If a teen drinks any alcohol and leaves the party and causes a wreck, potentially killing someone, the parent providing the alcohol or looking the other way will also pay a price, Craig said.
"One beer, the child leaves your house stone cold sober, and you are going to be responsible for every injury, every bit of property damage that child causes," Craig said, adding that anyone providing alcohol to a minor can also receive up to a year in prison and a $5,000 fine. "And here's the real kicker, you won't be insured because what you have done is committed a crime and your insurance company does not insure you against crimes."
After the presentation, Karen Barnes, the mother of a 12-year-old, sixth-grade boy, said Craig's talk was an eye-opener.
"I just feel much more aware of my responsibility as a parent of a teen," Barnes said. "... I'm going into it with my eyes open and hopefully will head off any trouble that comes."
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