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:
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks so much for your help.
Paul Vagianos and David Zrike
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