Archive for April, 2009

United Community Services of Johnson County, Kansas developed a Johnson County Children and Youth Trends Report (February, 2009)

Key findings include:

  • Approximately one in six public school students received a free or reduced-cost lunch during the 2007-08 school year.
  • Approximately one in three Johnson County 12th graders self-reported binge-drinking.
  • English as a Second Language enrollment increased 129% over the past five years.  There were 67 different languages spoken by Shawnee Mission School District students.

UCS can be found at: www.uscjoco.org


Read Full Post »

Issue: “Establishing a legal drinking age of 21 is unconstitutional age discrimination.”
Response: This question has been treated in detail in two court cases, one in Michigan, the other in Louisiana. In both instances, the courts upheld the constitutionality of the laws, based in part on the demonstrated value of age 21 laws in preventing traffic crashes.

Issue: “I’m old enough to go to war, I should be old enough to drink.”
Response: Many rights have different ages of initiation. A person can obtain a hunting license at age 12, driver’s license at age 16, vote and serve in the military at 18, serve in the U.S. House of Representatives at age 25 and in the U.S. Senate at age 30, and run for President at age 35. Other rights that are regulated include the sale and use of tobacco and legal consent for sexual intercourse and marriage. The minimum age for initiation is based on the specific behaviors involved and must take into account the dangers and benefits of that behavior at a given age. The age 21 policy for alcohol takes into account the fact that underage drinking is related to numerous serious health problems, including injuries and death resulting from car crashes, suicide, homicide, assault, drowning, and recreational injuries. In fact, the leading cause of death among teens is car crashes, and alcohol is involved in approximately a third of these deaths.

Issue: “Europeans let their teens drink from an early age, yet they don’t have the alcohol-related problems we do. What we need are fewer restrictions, not more.”
Response: The idea that Europeans do not have alcohol-related problems is a myth. European youth may be at less risk of traffic crashes since youth drive less frequently in Europe than in the United States. However, European countries have similar or higher rates of other alcohol-related problems compared to those in the United States.

Issue: “Lower rates of alcohol-related crashes among 19- to 20-year-olds aren’t related to the age 21 policy, but rather they’re related to increased drinking-driving education efforts, tougher enforcement, and tougher drunk-driving penalties.”
Response: When the age 21 restriction was initiated, alcohol-involved highway crashes declined immediately (i.e., starting the next month) among the 18- to 20-year-old population. Careful research has shown the decline was not due to DUI enforcement and tougher DUI penalties, but is a direct result of the legal drinking age. Studies have also shown that education alone is not effective in reducing youth drinking. Achieving long-term reductions in youth drinking problems requires an environmental change so that alcohol is less accessible to teens.

Issue: “Making it illegal to drink until 21 just increases the desire for the ‘forbidden fruit.’ Then, when students turn 21, they’ll drink even more.”
Response: Actually, the opposite is true. Early legal access to alcohol is associated with higher rates of drinking as an adult.

Issue: “Who will pay for enforcement of these laws? The age 21 law is too expensive.”
Response: We already pay large portions of our tax dollars for problems resulting from alcohol. For example, in Minnesota, cities use approximately one-third of their police budgets to deal with alcohol-related problems; the U.S. pays more than $10 billion annually just for the costs associated with drunk driving. The higher drinking age saves money by resulting in fewer alcohol-related health problems, fewer alcohol-related injuries, and less vandalism.

Issue: “We drank when we were young and we grew out of it. It’s just a phase that all students go through.”
Response: Unfortunately, many teens will not ‘grow out of it.’ Studies indicate that youth who start drinking before they are 21 are more likely to drink heavily later in life. Those who do not drink until age 21 tend to drink less as adults. Teens who drink are also more likely to try other illegal drugs and to become victims of crime. If teen drinking is accepted as normal behavior, youth will continue to experience car crashes, other injuries, early unprotected sex, and other problems commonly associated with drinking.

Issue: “If students can’t get alcohol, they’ll just switch to other, perhaps even more dangerous, drugs.”
Response: Research shows that the opposite is true; teens who drink and/or smoke are more likely to move on to use other drugs. Preventing youth from using alcohol and tobacco reduces the chance that they will try other illegal drugs. Moreover, when the drinking age was raised to 21, and teen drinking declined, there was no evidence of a compensatory increase in other drug use.

Reprinted from “How to Reduce High-Risk College Drinking: Use Proven Strategies, Fill Research Gaps,” Appendix 3: Responses to Arguments Against the Minimum Legal Drinking Age, final report of the Panel on Prevention and Treatment, Task Force of the National Advisory Council on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, National Institutes of Health, 2002 downloaded from http://www.collegedrinkingprevention.gov/Reports/Panel02/Appendix_03.aspx on December 9, 2004.

(Taken from the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention)

Read Full Post »

Taking A Stand


 It’s been said that a picture is worth 1,000 words. According to Chelsea Didde, a video is nearly priceless.

“Think of video as a picture times 10,” Didde says. “When you add movement, music, facial expression, audio, colors and lighting, that picture becomes so much more.” 

The St. Thomas Aquinas High School senior and upstart videographer knows what she’s talking about. Although she’s barely 18 years old, Didde’s video creations have already won her two awards, local airtime on Nickelodeon, MTV and the Cartoon Network, thousands of hits on YouTube and the respect and admiration of her teachers and peers. And while she describes her video-making hobby as just plain fun, she’s employed its power to reach teens about subjects that impact their lives the most, with underage drinking at the top of the list.

Didde has always taken a strong personal stance against underage drinking. 

“I thought it was just a given that you didn’t do that,” says the senior, whose blond hair gives her a fresh-faced, left-coast beauty that’s hard to miss. 

Then, two friends and Aquinas graduates, Jared Cheek and Matty Molnar, were killed in a car accident involving a drunk driver. Overcome with sadness, confusion and anger, yet inspired by MercyMe’s top Christian hit “I Can Only Imagine,” Didde grabbed a video camera and converted emotion into action and loss into gain.

The result was two public service announcements that have won the Johnson County STOP Underage Drinking Project’s PSA Creative Award two years running. Just 30 seconds each, both shoot straight and cut to the heart of the deadly consequences of underage drinking. 

Regarding their success, Didde is introspective. 

“Both [of the spots] were personal—something the audience could really connect to,” she says. 

One spot begins with the upbeat music of adolescence accompanied by shots of St. Thomas Aquinas students enjoying universal rites of passage: football games, house parties, prom. 

“Your teen years can be some of the best in your life,” says a voice as the pictures flash. “I never want to wake up with a hangover and wonder, ‘What did I do last night?’”

The music pauses with a driving guitar riff and a picture of twisted metal where the front of a car had once been. 

“Or worse . . . never wake up at all,” continues the voice. Graying headstones in a cemetery appear on the screen for the final scene.

Didde concedes that her juxtaposition of life’s best and worst images can be pretty raw—but necessary. After all, as a teen herself, she knows what motivates her target audience. 

“Kids are somewhat desensitized today,” she admits. “That’s why it’s good to be gutsy—within reason.”

Another of her award-winning PSAs contrasts a sunny and serene field of green—a hand holding a daisy—with jarring catcalls of night-partying, taillights glaring and car brakes screeching. 

“To drink. Not to drink,” says the voiceover, as the petals are picked off the daisy one-by-one. The back-and-forth scenes of serenity versus chaos flash continuously until the lights and sounds of an ambulance appear. As the music becomes more ominous and more insistent, all the petals of the daisy fall to the ground. The voiceover warns, “Don’t leave your life to chance. Stand up against underage drinking.”

While standing up against drinking has occupied much of her high school career, Didde shrugs off excessive praise, insisting that her own experience hasn’t been a difficult one. 

“I got so lucky,” she says. “I have a strong group of friends.” 

A solid relationship with parents willing to discuss their views on the subject has also helped. 

“They’ve always discouraged me and my younger brother from underage drinking because it’s illegal and could put us in harm’s way,” she says.

Unwavering in her own stance, Didde is neither self-righteous nor chastising toward others. Rather, she’s markedly practical. 

“I think it’s important for teenagers to know that if they do make a choice to drink, they still have the opportunity to make a better choice about getting home,” she says.

For now, the toughest choice facing Chelsea Didde is whether to attend the University of Kansas or the University of Missouri next fall and major in advertising or journalism. Although she insists she loves advertising—the “(RED)” ad campaign is her current favorite—it’s easy to see a stint in film in her future. In fact, she can barely listen to a song without filmmaking in her mind’s eye.

“When I hear a song, I see so many pictures in my head,” she explains. “And when I put music and video together, I get that tingly feeling just watching it.”

Although her PSAs saw airtime at local movie theaters last year, Didde admits she never personally witnessed her work on the big screen. As for friends and acquaintances who did see her anti-underage drinking messages? 

“They’re glad someone’s standing up for it,” she says. “It’s hard being a teenager.”


(Article from 435 South Magazine)

(View the Public Service Ads here: 2007 and 2008)


Read Full Post »

Governor Kathleen Sebelius signed an amendment to the Kansas Social Host Law into Law on April 13, 2009…

Concerning crime and punishment; relating to unlawfully hosting minors

HB 2165 expands the crime of unlawfully hosting minors consuming alcohol to include recklessly permitting a person’s land, building, structure or room owned, occupied or procured by such person to be used in such a manner that results in the possession or consumption of alcohol by a minor. This legislation goes into effect after its publication in the Kansas Statute Book.

The Statute reads… 


AN ACT concerning crimes and punishment; relating to unlawfully hosting minors; amending K.S.A. 21-3610c and repealing the existing section.


Be it enacted by the Legislature of the State of Kansas:

Section 1. K.S.A. 21-3610c is hereby amended to read as follows: 21-3610c. (a) Unlawfully hosting minors consuming alcoholic liquor or cereal malt beverage is intentionally or recklessly permitting a person’s residence or any land, building, structure or room owned, occupied or procured by such person to be used by an invitee of such person or an invitee of such person’s child or ward, in a manner that results in the possession or consumption therein of alcoholic liquor or cereal malt beverages by a minor.

(b) Unlawfully hosting minors consuming alcoholic liquor or cereal malt beverage is a class A person misdemeanor, for which the minimum fine is $1,000. If the court sentences the offender to perform community or public service work as a condition of probation, as described in sub-section (c)(10) of K.S.A. 21-4610, and amendments thereto, the court shall consider ordering the offender to serve the community or public service at an alcohol treatment facility.

(c) As used in this section, terms have the meanings provided by K.S.A. 41-102, and amendments thereto. 


(d) The provisions of this section shall not be deemed to create any civil liability for any lodging establishment, as defined in K.S.A. 36-501, and amendments thereto.

(e) This section shall be a part of and supplemental to the Kansas

Sec. 2. K.S.A. 21-3610c is hereby repealed.

Sec. 3. This act shall take effect and be in force from and after its publication in the statute book. 

Read Full Post »

On February 12, 2009 Representatives Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-34) and Mary Bono Mack (CA-45) introduced the “Support 21 Act of 2009” (H.R. 1028), legislation to advance the nation’s efforts to prevent and reduce underage alcohol use and its devastating consequences. Representatives DeLauro (CT-3) and Wamp (TN-3) are also original co-sponsors.

Support 21 Act Introduced to the US House of Representatives

The “Support 21 Act of 2009” will build on the success of the “Sober Truth on Preventing Underage Drinking (STOP) Act,” enacted in 2006, to strengthen the ability of government and communities around the nation to help construct and implement that needed national strategy.

 The $35.5 million bill includes the following components: 

 *   A targeted national media campaign to educate parents and the public about the importance of underage drinking laws and build support for their enforcement ($22M);

 *   Modest grant funding to engage pediatric health care providers in clinical and community efforts to reach parents and youth with the message that alcohol and youth  don’t mix ($8M); 

 *   Expansion of underage-drinking prevention activities at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), including surveillance, research and dissemination of effective prevention strategies ($5M), and; 

 *   A report to Congress on research findings and the public policy implications regarding alcohol use and adolescent brain development ($500,000).


Read Full Post »


Read Full Post »

Two Girls Hospitalized, Mother And 25-Year-Old Guest Face Child Endangerment Charges

Karen Christine Downs, vodka mom

A mother is accused of providing alcohol to young teens at a party in Missouri and offering $10 to whomever could chug a glass of vodka the fastest.

Two girls were hospitalized.

Authorities in Kansas City say 43-year-old Karen Christine Downs and 25-year-old Kelsee Guest face felony child-endangerment charges alleging they provided liquor and beer to six 13- and 14-year-olds at a February birthday party for Downs’ daughter.

The Platte County prosecutor’s office said neither woman had a lawyer to speak for them as of Tuesday.

Authorities say girls at the party told officers Downs offered them shots and told them not to tell their parents.

While Downs allegedly offered money to the faster drinker, Guest is accused of pouring vodka shots.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »