Parental responsibility front and center

By Daily Illini Editorial Board

Gov. Rod Blagojevich recently signed into law a measure that holds parents more accountable for the consequences stemming from allowing underage drinking in their homes. While some may question this new law, it is in the best interests of everyone.

Senate Bill 158 stemmed from an incident in Deerfield, Ill., last year where two teens were killed and three others injured in an alcohol-related car crash. The teens were leaving a party where parents were knowingly allowing minors to consume alcohol.

Under the newly amended Liquor Control Act, if serious injury or death stems from a willful allowance of underage consumption, parents can face one to three years in jail and a maximum fine of $125,000. The crime is also now considered a Class 4 Felony, up from a misdemeanor.

Unlike some detractors who may say that this is yet another move toward a “nanny” state, supporters of the new law rightly hold that this is not about telling parents how to raise their children but about setting newer and higher standards of acceptable behavior for parents and children alike.

Parents have a responsibility to raise their families to the best of their abilities. For some, this means exposing them at a young age to things that they will encounter in their college and adult years, in this case alcohol. However, parents abdicate this responsibility when they allow other people’s children to engage in behavior that their parents may or may not even know about.

Of course, much like many drinking laws, it is impossible to fully prevent these parties from occurring. But by adding new consequences for parents (even the well-intentioned ones) who facilitate the recklessness inherent in most alcohol-fueled parties, Illinois is encouraging everyone young and old to set a better example.

There is nothing wrong with parents preparing their children for the inevitable dangers of life that lie ahead.

But they are neither protecting nor preparing them for life if they create compromising situations that have been shown far too often to have many unintended, and in some cases deadly, consequences.

While the language of the law is for enforcement purposes after the fact, no parental punishment can bring back a teen who loses his life because his friend driving the car is impaired.

The virtue of this law lies in the belief that every teen deserves to grow up in a safe, caring and responsible environment. Unfortunately, no measure can fully ensure that, but it can’t possibly hurt for Illinois to keep trying to make that a reality.