Prom Season – Keeping Our Kids Safe. Understanding The Law.

We are currently in the midst of prom season. It is an exciting time for both teens and their parents, and is a dream come true for many girls as it means new shoes, a new dress, and a day of beauty at the hair and nail salon.

It also a step closer to adulthood as high school graduation follows soon afterward, and then after summer break most students are off to work or college. I look back fondly at my own prom so many years ago. My high school, Stella Maris, held our senior prom at the Pierre Hotel in New York City. My friends and I engaged in all the usual pre-prom activities, including hair and makeup. We converged on one of our friend’s homes where we had a half glass of champagne and some hors d’oeuvres Dozens of pictures were taken and then we all piled into the black stretch limo that took us into Manhattan. We thought we were so sophisticated in our fancy dresses and our big 80s hair. I remember the limo driver actually stopping at a liquor store to buy us alcohol for the car ride to the prom. The drinking age at the time was 19, and even though most of us were 17 or 18, it was quite common – even expected – that we would drink before and after the Prom. Things have not changed all that much. While liquor has continued to be banned from the Prom, many of the after parties still involve alcohol or binge drinking. 

The idea of our own children engaging in such behavior is frightening for many parents while tolerated by others as a rite of passage. However, it should never be tolerated. According to, underage drinking is associated with risky behaviors like unsafe sexual activity, drinking and driving, and experiencing or engaging in violent behavior such as physical fights. Each year, alcohol-related injuries (homicide, suicide and unintentional injury) cause 5,000 deaths among people under age 21 in the United States. Motor vehicle crashes are the number one cause of death for 15-20 year olds. Underage drivers represent about 5 percent of licensed drivers but are involved in 14 percent of fatal crashes. In 2011, there were nearly 7,000 alcohol-related emergency department visits among New Yorkers under age 21.

It is generally expected that there will be an after-party immediately following the prom. Today’s teens may stay in a hotel with a group of other seniors or even go to a destination like the Hamptons or the Jersey Shore. Many will attend parties at the home of their fellow students. If you are going to host one of these parties at your home, you should be aware of the possible consequences. New York State has zero tolerance for underage drinking when it comes to driving. Additionally, it is illegal to purchase alcohol if you are under 21 years of age. 

However, if as a parent or guardian you choose to give your child liquor, this is not considered illegal.  This does not mean you are allowed to serve alcohol to any other teens in your home. There are criminal penalties for serving alcohol to those under 21 and you could be held civilly liable if they hurt themselves or someone else. There is no defense, even if the other parents gave you permission for their child to drink or even if you did not buy the alcohol yourself. If the drinking occurs on your property, you will be responsible. 

Teens can enjoy themselves without alcohol; yet, many teens will still figure out a way to drink alcohol on the night of their prom. We should not be an accessory or an accomplice to this behavior.  Let’s help our kids make it to adulthood.    

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