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Not My Kid

He’s such a Good Son….

Unfortunately I hear this all the time.  I get a call on Sunday morning from a worried mother.  Her son (or daughter for that matter) goes to school at Ohio State.  Or some other college but was on campus for the big game.  They end up calling mom and dad for help when they find themselves in the back of a police wagon under arrest for underage drinking.

We all remember the stories about college binge drinking.  We may have even done a little of that ourselves.  But now things are different, right?  Well, if you believe the court records, things haven’t really changed.

Kids still go to college.  They still find a way to get booze even though underage.  And they still drink it.  And something else has yet to change—Most parents still don’t think their child is the one doing it.

We have this exact situation almost every football season.  I’m in court with two professional adults whose child is accused of underage drinking.

So what are the real consequences?  Well, that all depends.

If this is the first time in trouble, it may be possible to complete an alcohol and substance abuse program, pay some court costs, and get a dismissal.  But not all courts allow that.  And, of those that do, most won’t let kids do it more than once.  And if there is another problem in conjunction—say, for instance, there was a fake ID—then courts often reject these types of resolutions.

Wait, more than once, you say?  Fake ID?  That’s right.  More than once, fake ID, you name it.  And guess what?  Your child probably didn’t tell you the first time around.

At Ohio State, here’s what is happening.  Kids get in trouble, and they go with a “campus” law firm who purports to represent kids for virtually nothing.  The kids don’t tell their parents because they don’t have to pay.  Then they go plead guilty to something, get diversion, or get the case resolved in some other way.   Now they have their bite at the apple, and their only bite at the apple.  Their parents never knew, so there was no real intervention at home, and no real consequence.  So it happens again.

So when your college kid shows up with criminal complaints in his blue fraternity blazer, pay attention to what is happening.  Let me re-phrase, check your kids’ pockets.  Stay in touch.  Heck, look at court records.  Because it’s happening.  And it could be happening to your child.

I’m not saying all kids are bad.  Far from it.  Most are good kids from good homes.  But when they get together in a group?  Let’s face it.  They can be pretty stupid.

The good news is that these are manageable problems.  There are solutions that can avoid long-term problems with a young person’s record.

But left to their own discretion, kids often will opt to simply sweep these problems under the rug rather than risk telling their parents. Then the problems will re-appear at inopportune moments.  Not to mention the risk of jail, mandatory fines, college suspension, and the like.

In other words, be vigilant and stay involved.  It just may be your kid next time.  It just may be you on the phone on Sunday morning.

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