Letter: RHS Parents Must Help Stop Student 'Pre-Gaming' Prior to Backwoods Dance

Leaders of RHS Backwoods say parents of high school students need to explain dangers of binge drinking, prevent it before the high school dance starts up at 8 p.m. Saturday.

Tasked to provide high school students a fun and safe alternative to drinking on weekend nights, youth-focused oraganization RHS Backwoods is asking parents to do their part in educating their children on the dangers of binge drinking while taking further measures to curb "pre-gaming" before the dance.

The upcoming dance is scheduled for Saturday night at Memorial Park at Van Neste Square, starting at 8 p.m.

The previous Backwoods dances attracted close to 1,000 students and though nearly all abided by the rules, several were taken to the police station for fighting and/or underage drinking.

RHS Backwoods co-chairs Paul Vagianos and David Zrike wrote the following letter asking parents to be cognizant of what their children are doing in the hours leading up to the dance.

The letter, distributed by Ridgewood High School Assistant Principal Basil Pizzuto, is unedited as follows:

Dear Parents/Guardians,

This weekend the Backwoods organization is hosting a dance at Van Neste Park on Saturday, September 29 at 8 pm. We are anticipating close to 1000 in attendance and it is always a great event for Ridgewood kids.

As with every event, and most especially dances, it is likely that some young people will be binge drinking (commonly referred to as pre-gaming) prior to the event. When young people engage in pre-gaming the binge drink of choice is usually vodka. It is cheap, odorless, colorless, (so it looks like water if consumed in public) and gets students very drunk, very quickly.  

If a young person engages in pre-gaming we anticipate they will do so within an hour before the start of the dance. Because a young person who is pre-gaming is consuming a large amount of vodka in a short period of time, he/she may not realize they have consumed far more alcohol than their body can tolerate, often at toxic levels. Depending upon how much vodka the young person has consumed he/she may get sick, become unconscious, suffer brain damage or even die.

Our goal is to host a safe event that our students will enjoy. We will take many precautions to ensure that your children are safe once they arrive, including:

1. A high school assembly, that took place today, to discuss the hazards of binge drinking;

2. Eight Ridgewood Police officers at the gate and the perimeter of the park;  

3. Chaperones stationed throughout the dance;

4. Not allowing bags of any kind to be brought into the dance;

5. Checking each and every attendee at the gate to determine, as best as possible, if they have been drinking;

But we need your help too. First, discuss the dangers of binge drinking with them yourself. Help them to understand that, when drinking vodka (or other hard liquor) while pre-gaming, they are consuming it so quickly that they can get alcohol poisoning before they even begin to feel the effects of their first sip.

Next, bring your child to the dance yourself, or send them with another parent you trust to keep a close eye on them prior to the dance. Do not let them go to a friend’s house or get to the dance on their own. Remember, pre-gaming usually takes place in the hour before the dance begins. So when your child says they are going over to their friend’s house prior to the dance, understand that they may be planning on pre-gaming. 

No child is immune to this type of behavior and no family is safe from the tragedy that can occur from binge drinking. Even the “good kids” (more often than you could ever realize) are curious and will experiment with pre-gaming. Please, don’t think this can’t happen to your kid. 

We are taking every precaution we can to keep your children safe. But we can’t do it without you. Make sure they get to the dance safely and we’ll make sure they have a good time once they get there. If you’d like to volunteer to chaperone we would love to have you. You can contact us at dzrike@zrikebrands.com.

Thanks so much for your help.


Paul Vagianos and David Zrike
RHS Backwoods 

Have a question or news tip? Contact editor James Kleimann at James.Kleimann@patch.com, or find us on Facebook and Twitter. For news straight to your inbox every morning, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Dennis Martinez September 29, 2012 at 10:35 AM
It's a very well written and thought out letter. How much it will help is anyone's guess but if it spares one individual and family pain, it will be worth it. I like the proactive approach....
JAFO September 29, 2012 at 11:02 AM
WOW! "bring your child to the dance yourself, or send them with another parent you trust to keep a close eye on them prior to the dance. Do not let them go to a friend’s house or get to the dance on their own". In other words, do not trust that you raised your child correctly? That's a great a message to send to my kids.... Son, I realize that tonight is the RHS Backwoods. Because you're too young and dumb to make your own decisions, I've decided to take you to the dance myself so as to be sure you don't binge drink. Additionally, I will hold your hand upon entering the dance so I can catch you if you happen to trip. I will then follow you around the dance and whisper in your ear the appropriate responses to any social conversations you may have. Nice idea to alert parents, but poorly written.
thetentman September 29, 2012 at 01:06 PM
glad I am not JAFOs kid. Bitter smart ass. I liked the letter. And I am sure just trusting you kids and not being involved will stop binge drinking. Yeah right.
Harlan Consider September 29, 2012 at 02:33 PM
The trouble is, there's a lot of JAFOs out there. They think they are cool parents and that their kids tell them everything. The reality is, these kids aren't open and honest about the things they don't want their cool parents to know.
John Hahn September 29, 2012 at 03:01 PM
As a parent of a 16 year old boy, I think of the old President Reagan statement. 'Trust but verify" Our children's brain is not fully formed until 21. My job is to help them get to 18 or 21 hopefully drug free & alcohol free. I have the toughest job - parent. It also can be the most rewarding.
Tony Damiano September 29, 2012 at 04:13 PM
Well written letter guys! As for JAFO, many, many parents r in denial about their teenagers. We all witnessed this first hand at several dances where parents came to pick up their teen who pre-gamed and couldn't believe it . As stated, most young adults do not realize the power of alcohol until it is too late. The delayed reaction is what hurts and then there is no turning back. As for JAFO, if your son should falter, we will be there to catch his fall.
JAFO September 29, 2012 at 05:26 PM
I feel bad for all you helicopter parents who obviously don't have confidence in their kids being able to make the right decision.
RB September 29, 2012 at 06:01 PM
JAFO needs a reality check. Good luck!
Matt September 29, 2012 at 06:52 PM
The kids that are going to pregame are the kids that are already drinking; it doesn't matter whether there is a dance or not. Teenage drinking has been around forever. And the comment about keeping kids "drug and alcohol free" until 21...LOL?
Ron Verdicchio September 29, 2012 at 09:14 PM
Alcohol and drug use and binge drinking are family, school, and community issues. So in that regard the very well intended letter reinforces that concern. I would have preferred the signature line to have included H&SA officials, school officials as well as those of the sponsors. After the event is concluded, which I'm sure will be successful, we might reflect on the absence of those other signatures.
JAFO September 30, 2012 at 12:30 AM
So what you're saying is every kid in Ridgewood is a binge drinker? Nice.
Elizabeth Cox September 30, 2012 at 12:56 AM
you have to trust that you explained to your children the difference between right and wrong- kids make mistakes, that's how they learn. i agree with the helicopter parents- if you don't trust your kids, how will they trust you- and for all of the parents out there- you mean to tell me you never drank underage or before dances-
Elizabeth Cox September 30, 2012 at 01:00 AM
your kids are going to drink- ok some will, some wont- that is true. but teach them how to be responsible. don't drink & drive, don't ge tin the car, they can call no matter what without penelty- you can have a few beers but don't get stupid. if parents just learned how to tal and not preach, or to trust you have taught well- or that your kids have a brain and can do the right thing, maybe life would be different. i do find it ironic that we teach our kids all these things but we go out for dinner and have wine or beer, we go to parties, spring socials, octoberfest, football games(tailgating) but we demand that our kids don't drink - children learn by example-
RR September 30, 2012 at 07:34 PM
Kathy, Your son needs to stop being such a prude. If he is really shocked by drinking, making out, grinding, and breasts, he's going to be in for a real shock once he goes to college.
Harlan Consider September 30, 2012 at 10:03 PM
Just a reminder folks. The old scene we have in our minds of teenagers hanging around outside a liquor store trying to get a grown up to buy beer for them, went out many years ago. Not only that, but it no longer costs them any money. Their booze is easily obtained at home from mom and dad's well-stocked collection. Oh, and those zolofts, paxils, percosets, oxycontins, cough syrups, etc., they are coveted too. Look, no-one wants to be a helicopter parent, and we like to think we have a great open relationship with our kids, the kind of relationship that we never quite had with our parents. Yes, we're different. Our kids listen to the same music as us, something we never did with our parents. Just remember that just like we spin things and tell convenient untruths at work, our teenage kids are doing the same to us. Most of the time we are blissfully unaware, and our kids make it through to real adulthood relatively unscathed, but the reality is our kids are getting high, drunk (and driving), having unprotected sex, cheating on tests, and stealing your pills and booze. Good luck. Odds on they will come through fine. Some won't.
RR September 30, 2012 at 10:35 PM
Raul, if you had seen breasts when you were 15, is "shocked" (in the negative sense) really the reaction you would have had? While I agree with you that its great for a son and parent to have a great, communicative relationship, I don't think that what these kids did means that they have a low sense of self-respect or class. They just want to be kids and have fun. They're going to have fun -- which for some includes drinking, engaging in sexual activity, etc -- no matter what parents try to do; better they do it in a semi-chaperoned environment than empty homes or basements. Let kids be kids, and don't try and mold them into prudes that aren't ready for the real world come college.
RB September 30, 2012 at 11:09 PM
RR I don't think you'd be taking such a laid back approach if that was your daughter exposing her breasts in the middle of town square. That is totally unacceptable behavior at any age. Parents, be parents and teach kids what's right and what is wrong. Sorry, but for a girl to be exposing her breasts like that shows a low sense of self respect and NO CLASS.
jp1 October 01, 2012 at 04:00 PM
I find when it comes to drinking in Ridgewood the parents are a big part of the problem.As for drug use this town and those next door it is a open air bazaar.
Steve Holder October 01, 2012 at 06:35 PM
Hmm.. Seems my comment was deleted... We wouldn't have these problems if the drinking age wasn't so ridiculously high in this country. They don't have problems like this in Europe because kids LEARN how to control their drinking at an early age, and at functions like this alcohol consumption is controlled by bar tenders. Being 23 years old I remember what it was like to be in these situations, I was not a big drinker in my teen years but when I did want to drink I was forced into chugging large amounts of alcohol in small amount of time because I was threatened with being in trouble if I was caught with it. If we just loosened the regulations a little bit, I'm not saying change the laws, but control it, instead of stopping kids from drinking allow them to have a few drinks but keep it to that there wouldn't be an issue. I guarantee it. Parents, take it from someone who remembers what it was like DON'T try to stop your kids from drinking they will do it anyway and more dangerously, instead provide a SAFE place for them to experiment and have their fun.
AHC October 01, 2012 at 07:17 PM
Kathy, This is such an exaggeration of what goes on. Yes people probably drink before the dance but I have never witnessed or heard about any drinking inside the dance. This is a high school dance the hormones are raging of course people will be making out! As for the "girls exposing their breasts" I can confidently say that did not actually happened, besides your son complained about that? No way that is a 15 year old boys heaven. If your son was so traumatized then he does not have to go to any more of these events. Other kids who are like experiencing a good safe time should be able to go again. The dances are not at all like you described above, unless you were there yourself i don't think you should comment on what goes on at these events.
SnakelordSupreme October 01, 2012 at 11:11 PM
I believe bickering on the Ridgewood Patch website shows no self-respect and no class. SnakelordSupreme out.
Jorge Noya October 01, 2012 at 11:42 PM
Classic example of a parent who won't let their kid watch a rated R movie until their 17
Anonymous October 01, 2012 at 11:58 PM
This is absolutely ridiculous. As a former student of RHS, sheltering your kids like this can actually prove to be more destructive in the future. This is my first year of college and in the short amount of time I have been here, I have already witnessed kids who were over protected by their parents, become too excited with the idea of freedom and go crazy. They are new to the idea of drinking before going out and with no one to check on them every 20 minutes they do not feel the need to control themselves. There is no way to protect your kids from all alcohol forever, unless you intend on your children not attending college and living with you forever. If anything, these dances made me become more responsible with my drinking habits. I also strongly believe that if parents choose to baby their kids, they will end up rebelling and acting out in different more severe ways. Kids make mistakes, especially if they are too stupid to understand their limits. Drinking is something that every single one of your children will have to face one day or another, and the only way to ensure their safety with this "lethal weapon" is to open and up front with them about it.
Timothy Soddington October 02, 2012 at 12:19 AM
Perhaps if we instead focused on the responsibility of drinking and the effects and consequences it actually has in our society, on our behavior, our health and our relationships with each other rather than continually tasking these DARE inspired scare tactics towards complete abstinence we wouldn't face problems of the extreme excessive drinking that leads to immediate health effects like alcohol poisoning. We continue this approach that is very reminiscent of the south's treatment of sex education and magically hope that by continually lying to our children they will somehow swear off the evils of alcohol until they turn the magical age of 21 where somehow drinking becomes partially a responsible activity that can be tolerated and accepted in our society. Kids are always going to drink. The problem is not stopping them from drinking... the problem is changing the behavioral and societal attitudes that lead to the excessive forms of alcohol abuse that have immediate consequence. Drinking, and alcohol, is not necessarily an evil and to continually say it is will never help your position, Ridgewood Public Schools. I graduated from RHS, so let me tell you, I've seen all side of the issue.
RdgwdGRock October 02, 2012 at 12:28 AM
as I walk the CBD, the actions of the RHS students and the words from their mouths demonstrates a lack of character. many of them act like they are cool, but they are dopes
nicky October 02, 2012 at 12:30 AM
ur a tool
Jerry Sandidusky October 02, 2012 at 12:30 AM
Hey Kathy I don't know if you have ever tasted alcohol before but as a person who has I can assure you it is impossible to "guzzle" liquor unless you have the alcohol tolerance of a grown man from the deep south. I also don't know if you were ever a teenager that tried to obtain alcohol but I'll let you know it isn't easy, so why in gods name would these kids be "tossing" their alcohol to random people? I would also like to touch on the fact that your son called these actions "soft core porn". Really porn? The recording of sexual acts to be redistributed as a means to masturbate to? That is really what your son (who probably masturbates to real porn) called people taking off there tops and grinding? Calling a highschool dance that had 20+ parents on stand by with the help of 10+ cops fueled by alcohol and weed a "rave" is actually ridiculous. Having dances where kids get drunk is far safer them having them going to some dingy warehouse, where they will take Ecstasy, LSD, Ketamine, Meth, etc to see a performance that will blow their ear drums out. Sheltering kids completely from alcohol consumption and marijuana use is down right stupid. Your kids ARE going to drink, and your kids ARE going to smoke. It is a simple fact of life. The best thing we can do for our kids is tell them the truth. Drugs aren't bad if used responsibly, so instead of going on a campaign against them and be ignored, tell them the facts and dangerous that are associated with them and let them choose.


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