It was a Saturday night. Jessica Martin* and a few friends had received a call about a party. Her friends told her that the party was small, but it grew bigger as the night went on. As Martin walked down to the basement, there was a handle of McCormick’s vodka sitting on the bar counter and a case of beer hidden in a cabinet. The loud music coming from the basement could be easily heard from upstairs, which led to the arrival of the cops at the front door later.
Once there was mention of the cops, almost everyone ran and most got away except for Martin and her friend. They were both interrogated with the familiar question “have you been drinking tonight?” Martin quickly answered yes to the cop and was given a Minor in Possession (MIP).
This has become an all too common sight around East this year. According to a recent poll of 218 students, 63 percent know someone who has received an MIP. Principal Dr. Karl Krawitz says that while the reported number of MIP charges has not increased from last year, the attitude towards the punishment has gotten worse. Even though there isn’t an increase incidences, he feels upset that students are not taking it seriously enough. Krawitz believes that despite their knowledge of potential dangers, they choose to drink anyway.
“Just about everyone knows what is right and what is wrong,” Krawitz said. “If something happens and the person knows it wasn’t right in the first place then why does it have to go to some other level?”
Martin says that she knows the potential punishment of getting MIPs. She notes that having one on your personal record can affect college, and even when searching for a job. But while she sees them as a big deal, Martin says most do not.
“Some kids don’t take it seriously,” Martin said. “Kids start on diversion and even get to probation because they keep failing tests and don’t even care.”
Krawitz is ultimately upset with student’s mindset towards MIPs. When a student has a meeting with him about his or her charge, most of the time he notices them and even the parents lying to him about the situation.
“I would like to see people just admit what they did wrong instead of trying to find ways to get around it,” said Krawitz. “People come up with mysterious ways of trying to make their argument a legitimate argument and it almost seems funny.”
Krawitz knows the dangers of drinking. Since he was an EMT (Emergency Medical Technician), he has seen kids who have been close to death because of alcohol consumption.
Krawitz doesn’t know why students don’t see this as a major issue. He says it’s sad to see kids lose their lives when it’s all preventable. The rise in teen-related incidences involving alcohol over the past few years has upset Krawitz.
Five years ago the District Attorney’s office noticed the initial spike in crashes related to underage drinking and more serious crimes. Realizing this increase, the DA came up with an under aged drinking task force. Squads of officers now go out during big events like Homecoming and Prom to crack down on this issue. According to Leawood police officer, Doug Brokaw, each month they issue about fifteen of MIPs.
He says the penalty of receiving an MIP is even more severe for high school students.
“Penalties are harsher for high schoolers than for college kids,” Brokaw said, “because of the age issue.”
An MIP will go on a student’s permanent record, effective immediately. It counts as a criminal offense and is only issued to minors as the name suggests. This results in the minor’s attendance of diversion or even the minor being placed on probation–meaning that they will have a set of rules to follow for a certain amount of time; no consumption of alcohol or use of drugs and no missing class with an unexcused absence. Additionally, the offender will be required to do community service, and is suggested to undergo counseling sessions. If these rules are not followed, the diversion or probation will be revoked, which could potentially lead to jail time.
Krawitz has taken an effort to prevent this problem. He has given speeches for many years about how bad underage drinking can be and what it can result in. He has been working with the Johnson County prevention group to create programs that could help decrease underage drinking. To keep the awareness up, he has brought in quadriplegics and parents of a teen from Blue Valley Northwest who was killed in a drunk driving accident.
“We know that pounding the information about drinking doesn’t work,” Krawitz said. “We have to just keep people’s awareness up.”
Despite his best efforts to warn students about the present danger of drinking, the problem has persisted. For students, peer pressure is often the reason.
“I did it because my friends and everyone at the party were doing it,” sophomore Morgan Smith* said. “I thought I needed to do it to be accepted by my friends and a lot of the population at East.”
When Smith was caught by the police, she was at a garage party. The police arrived and lined everyone up and breathalyzed them one by one. If they passed they were released, but Smith was not. She was stuck waiting for her charge of an MIP. She couldn’t help but feel regret.
“I decided to drink because everyone was doing it and it was fun,” Smith said. “Now that I have gotten in trouble it makes me realize it is not worth it.”
Krawitz knows that the issue will not magically disappear. He has been doing what he can to eliminate this issue including working on a project with the Johnson County prevention group. They are working on getting a program started that has to do with the neighborhood watch programs. The watch programs already look out for burglaries, but this program will be on the watch for big parties. According to Krawitz, we will save more people by doing programs, but it is not going to reach out to everyone.
In the end, it’s the students who make the decision; he hopes they can dictate their own future. Smith, among others, has learned through her experience that drinking isn’t worth it.
“I realize how one sip of alcohol can change your whole life,” Smith said, “and you don’t need alcohol to have a good time or be accepted by anyone.”