With high school proms and graduations around the corner, the state's alcohol-control office is reminding parents of a new "party hosting" law that makes it illegal for adults to let their homes be used for underaged drinking.
"Alcohol is not a rite of passage for kids. A lot of parents think it is," said Alcoholic Beverage Control statewide coordinator Joe Garman, who has been sending letters to editors around the state in recent days. "Just because we did it as kids doesn't make it right today."
Under the 2004 law, parents can be found guilty of a class "B" misdemeanor and fined at least $200 if they knowingly allow their home or property to be used for drinking by children younger than 18. They don't have to supply the alcohol to be found guilty.
In Lawrence, the minimum fine is $300, assistant city prosecutor Tom Porter said. Since the law went into effect in July 2004, there have been 47 violations reported to police statewide, but none in Lawrence, according to the Kansas Bureau of Investigation.
"I think with a law on the books that holds parents accountable, parents are certainly less likely to host any kind of party that has alcohol involved," said Laurie Muder, parent of a Lawrence High School senior. "That's true for myself anyway - not that I would have ever done that."
Muder is one of the organizers of this year's Project Graduation, a citywide, all-night event aimed at giving high school students something fun to do at graduation that doesn't involve alcohol. Generally, 75 percent of the city's graduating seniors have attended the event.
This year's event is scheduled for May 21 at Abe & Jake's Landing, 8 E. Sixth St.
"The whole idea of it is to keep kids safe, to allow them to celebrate in a safe environment," Muder said.
Parent Kim Liebl, president of Free State High School's booster club, said she didn't know firsthand of any parents who had hosted a drinking party.
"That's not to say that I don't think it goes on, but no one that I know of has ever done that," she said. "Things have changed. It's just a different time than it was when I grew up. The consequences are just a lot tougher, which I guess is a good thing."