Party Bus Driver Playing Police or Parent?
By: Mike Stetzer
It's that time of year when the wind starts getting colder and stinging the tip of your nose and fingers; leaves start changing to golden colors and drifting off the trees; and people start digging out their scarves and gloves from the back of the closet. It's fall.
And with this time of the year comes pumpkin carving, sweaters and Homecoming - a quasi-holiday for schools that runs from September to November. Students can't wait for festivities, which usually mean an early dismissal for a pep rally, parade, football game and dance.
Most people look back fondly on their experiences from Homecoming and the dance. How excited you were to get your new dress or shirt and tie; worrying about getting the flowers to match with you and your date's outfits, making reservations for dinner; and planning the after-party with your friends.
Maybe you or some of your friends drank after the dance - or maybe even before the dance. You were all underage and alcohol is prohibited on school property, but that was a part of the Homecoming ritual - no big deal. Except for some teenagers in Highland Park, IL, underage drinking became a big deal.
Limousine Driver Not On Board for Party in His Bus
On September 27, 20 teenagers headed for a high school Homecoming dance in Township High School District 113 boarded Leonel Cesar's "party bus," reported The Chicago Tribune. The white limo coach is equipped with a TV and stereo, costing $1,500 for three hours.
On their way to a restaurant in Chicago, one of the boys in the group asked Cesar to stop at his house in Highland Park. He came out of the house with a bag, and when Cesar ask him what he had, the boy told the driver it was none of his business and that the group would tip him well.
Cesar quickly put two-and-two together, figuring it was alcohol. He tried calling some of the teenagers' parents but didn't get a quick response. Some of the teens begged Cesar not to call their parents or police, and a few even offered him money, but Cesar refused.
Once police and parents arrived on the scene, there was mixed reactions. The police ended up issuing 13 underage drinking citations, while parents fumed - not at their misbehaved children but at the bus driver and limo company.
Cesar told The Chicago Tribune, that while some parents thanked him for reporting the underage drinking to the police, others told him his actions were uncalled for because it was Homecoming.
Should Underage Drinking Be Tolerated under Certain Circumstances?
DUI punishments differ across the nation, depending on different DUI state laws, but one thing all the DUI laws agree on is that drinking and driving is a serious crime. When it comes to underage drinking, all 50 states enforce a zero tolerance policy which makes it illegal for a person to operate a motor vehicle with any alcohol in his or her system if he or she is under 21.
Although these students were not driving, it is still illegal for the teenagers to be drinking since they were under the age of 21, but this is where a debate is beginning to brood. Most of us would probably agree that Cesar was in the right for calling the police, but The Chicago Tribune reported that experts are raising questions about the "fallout from such vigilance."
Is it possible that after this incident students will drive themselves to the dance the next time instead of dealing with being reported by an adult? Then teenagers will be bypassing adult supervision and creating more danger for themselves and anyone else on the road.
While Cesar and others believe that the limo driver was just doing his job, some feel that the students shouldn't have suffered any punishment since they at least took the initiative to get a sober driver for the night. Some people say that underage drinking is inevitable and that we should be encouraging students to consider alternatives to drinking and driving themselves.
In fact, many of the parents are upset with Cesar for involving the police. Although they may not be pleased with their children's actions, some of the parents feel that the driver's actions were uncalled for. One parent has threatened to sue the company Cesar works for, Any Time Limo in Addison, IL.
The company's general manager, Alex Mich, told The Chicago Tribune that the company expects to lose some business over the ordeal but doesn't care about the money. Any Time Limo is pleased Cesar did the "right thing." Mich said that both parents and teens are warned that drinking, smoking and sexual acts are not allowed in the vehicles.
Are New Programs Encouraging Students to Drink or Keeping Our Roads Safe?
Beyond the debate on this most recent incident is the discussion on other programs that have been developed to encourage students to not drink and drive. In New Trier Township, Safe Rides has been attracting attention. The program allows students to call peer volunteers to pick them up from parties if they are intoxicated - no questions asked.
Some feel that by offering this service, students are only encouraged to drink because they have a safe way of getting home and not getting caught. While others say that whether we have people transporting teenagers or not, underage drinking will continue to happen. If we have no safe way of getting these children from one point to the next, they will only choose to drive themselves, which will only endanger even more people.
Jeff Brooks, who oversees the Safe Rides program, told The Chicago Tribune that the steps being taken in the real world to stop students from drinking are not working. He designed the program for one purpose, and that was to get teenagers home safely.
However, the superintendent of Township High School District 113 said that the actions of the students were unacceptable - whether they had a sober driver or not. School officials have suspended the students from athletic and other activities.