These are the new efforts to prevent underage drinking in Bay Area schools

Lauren Martinez Image
Wednesday, August 9, 2023
New efforts to prevent underage drinking in Bay Area schools
This back-to-school season is testing the roles of teens and parents, faced with the deadly consequences of opioid and alcohol dangers.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- This back-to-school season is testing the roles of teens and parents, faced with the deadly consequences of opioid and alcohol dangers.

A Los Gatos mom facing charges brought underage drinking and parties with parents' permission to the forefront of headlines around the country.

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While her trial is still pending, members of the community are pushing their message forward that providing alcohol to minors is unacceptable.

In April of 2022, the city of Los Gatos updated what's called their 'social host ordinance.'

It holds anyone accountable of a party where underage drinking or drug use is allowed.

Mayor of Los Gatos, Maria Ristow, explained the updated ordinance includes increasing fines and includes any controlled substance use.

"I think it's $1,500 for first offense, $3,000 for a second," Ristow said. "It holds parents responsible not only if their home and there's a party at their house but it's at their home."

As the school year gets underway the City and the Los Gatos Union School District are partnering with the Montana Institute to refocus on positive community norms.

VIDEO: Bay Area mom accused in teen sex parties rejects 17-year sentence plea offer, case will proceed

Shannon O'Connor, accused of throwing drunken sex parties for her son and other teens, could now face three years more than the 17-year deal she turned down.

Experts at the Montana Institute work on research, data and messaging.

Sara Thompson is the Director of Training and Communications.

"There are so many good, wonderful kids making good healthy choices and we're not talking about that," Thompson said.

Thompson says they're in the process of collecting data from students to find out how many are actually drinking and how many are not. It's about correcting misperceptions that are out there.

"By correcting it we have an opportunity to impact how they see themselves and how they see their peers when they start to realize - hey most students are not doing this I don't have to either. It's kind of this positive peer pressure," Thompson said.

Thompson said the Montana Institute will create messaging this fall or winter from those student surveys.

In January, a Dublin High School student launched a social platform called My Alcohol Story. It's a space where teenagers affected by someone's alcoholism or their own can share stories anonymously.

Anit Annadi is the creator of the platform.

"Going into senior year or being in high school the four years I've been, I've seen alcohol or drugs normalized," Annadi said.

MORE: Alcohol deaths increase dramatically for younger adults: Research

The soon-to-be senior is glad he can create a safe space to talk about something so personal.

"The most amazing thing to see is when I see stories mention other stories that are written on the platform," Annadi said. "They say 'After reading these other stories it changed my perception of alcohol- it showed me the bad effects.'"

Annadi said through the stories users post the majority say their first experience drinking is at parties.

"I think we really need to work together as a community to combat this normalization of alcohol," Annadi said.

So far 1,200 users on My Alcohol Story and more than 350 have shared stories.

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