Gorgeous gowns. Dapper tuxedos. Fragrant corsages. Prom season is here.
And though prom night may be a rite of passage for teens, it can also produce a host of worries for parents, school administrators and law enforcement officials.
In Orange County, alcohol, marijuana and prescription pill use, as well as teens driving under the influence, are top prom concerns, says Orange County Sheriff’s Deputy Brian Gunsolley.
As a school resource officer and drug liaison officer, Gunsolley and his team work to thwart these activities on prom night through a variety of efforts.
Strict measures keep kids safe
In Gunsolley’s territory, prom attendees are searched and take a breathalyzer test before entering the dance, he says. Also, the teens are closely monitored for signs and symptoms of intoxication during the event.
Further, prom goers sign a waiver allowing their vehicles to be searched. In these cases, officials use a device that detects the presence of alcohol, Gunsolley says.
“It may seem like overkill, but some teenagers will try their best to get away with things, and they’re not old enough to know the dangers,” he says. “It’s our job to supervise them and keep them safe.”
Parents can also take steps to ensure their children enjoy a safe prom. Gunsolley offers a few tips:
Check cars, bags
Inspect vehicles for alcohol and drugs before the teens depart for the night, Gunsolley recommends.
Gunsolley also advises that parents check bags and purses of all teens riding together.
“This is for their child’s safety,” he says.
Look for reputable services
If a teen wants to hire a limousine for prom night, Gunsolley recommends that parents help find a reputable service.
“Know the limo company, and get to know the driver,” he says. “Ask to see his or her driver’s license, and write down the name and license number.”
Set a curfew
Prom is a special occasion, but the usual household rules should apply, Gunsolley says.
“If parents are concerned at all that their kid will drink, drive drunk or get in a car with a drunk driver, set up that curfew,” he recommends.
Check up on after-parties
If teens are attending an after-prom party at a friend’s house, Gunsolley recommends that parents ask for the home’s address and name of the supervising adult.
That way, parents can check in ahead of time, ask questions and settle any concerns. Also, if parents have any doubts or concerns that night, Gunsolley recommends visiting the home.
“Do a spot check,” he says.
Parents can keep tabs on their children by using mobile technology, Gunsolley says.
Further, a video application like FaceTime can provide immediate reassurance that a teen is where she’s supposed to be.
Drug tests provide a final say
Parents who suspect their child may use drugs on prom night can rely on store-bought drug tests for confirmation – or threats.
“If you suspect your kid might use drugs, let them know that you’re going to buy a drug test kit,” he says. “Tell them that when they come home, you’re going to test them.”
Knowing that testing is a possibility can arm teens against peer pressure to experiment, Gunsolley adds.
“The fear of consequences coupled with the science of a drug test is an effective tool to keep teens safe,” he says.