Between the Lines

Between the Lines By David Lias "This has been all blown out of proportion."

"The charges are all a bunch of politics coming from our state's attorney's office."

"We were just down by the river on the Fourth of July to watch the fireworks, relax and have a good time."

This is just a sample of the reaction we've received following the publication on the front page of last week's Plain Talk stating that four Vermillion adults had been indicted by a Clay County grand jury on numerous counts, including contributing to the delinquency of a minor child, furnishing alcohol to a child, and furnishing alcohol to individuals between the ages of 18 and 21.

The happenings of July 4 that led to these indictments apparently can best be described as a beer party � with one problem. A number of the guests, at least 28 who testified before the grand jury, were under the age of 21.

Judging from some of the comments we've heard since news of the indictments spread, local law enforcement was, and still is, overzealous. After all, it was just an innocent party. It was designed so that a fun time was had by all. It was harmless.

Was this just all pure innocent fun? Did law enforcement step out of bounds? Consider this.

Last year, the South Dakota Department of Health released a youth risk behavior survey report. It isn't particularly pleasant to read. Especially if you're a parent, worried that at some point your teenage son or daughter could put himself or herself at risk by "trying to be cool."

How do young people try to be cool? They emulate the adults around them. When given the opportunity, some of them drink alcohol, and try other drugs.

The survey notes that alcohol is a major contributing factor in approximately half of all homicides, suicides, and motor vehicle crashes, which are the leading causes of death and disability among young people. Heavy drinking among youth has been linked to multiple sexual partners, use of marijuana, and poor academic performance.

All public, private, and Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) schools in South Dakota containing any students in grades 9, 10, 11, or 12 were eligible to be selected for inclusion in the survey.

Special procedures designed to allow the survey to provide accurate information about the behavior of South Dakota youth were used. Twenty-five schools were selected to participate in the survey.

Here's what the survey found in South Dakota:

* Lifetime alcohol use was reported by 86 percent of the respondents. Thirty percent of the respondents had drank alcohol prior to age 13. Over half of the respondents (59 percent) reported having at least one alcoholic drink during the past 30 days. Forty-six percent of the respondents had five or more alcoholic drinks in a row during the past 30 days.

* Marijuana was used at least once by 38 percent of the respondents. Twenty-one percent of the respondents used marijuana during the past 30 days.

* Cocaine use was reported by 9 percent of the respondents. Ten percent of the respondents reported using methamphetamines. Illegal drugs were injected by 2 percent of the respondents. Three percent of the respondents reported using steroid pills or shots without a doctor's prescription.

* Fourteen percent of the respondents sniffed glue or inhaled sprays from cans during their lifetime.

A limited number of behaviors usually established during youth, the study has found, contribute substantially to the causes of mortality and morbidity. These behaviors include drinking or using drugs while operating a motor vehicle.

It must be noted that the guilt of the Clay County adults indicted has yet to be determined. They still haven't had their day in court.

It appears that local law enforcement, however, didn't step out of bounds in its investigation of the happenings of July 4.

One must consider that something beyond the scope of simple law-breaking may have occurred.

Whenever one provides alcohol to a young person, that youth is at risk. It's good to see law enforcement make an attempt to reduce that risk.

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