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UI, School District team up on alcohol discussion


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University of Iowa officials tonight will expand their scope on alcohol education, hoping to engage local parents and other community members in an interactive discussion.

The Partnership for Alcohol Safety, pairing with MECCA Services — an organization that offers substance-abuse programs — will host a forum at 7 p.m. in the West High Little Theatre, featuring a panel of local experts and school officials. They’ll present information on how parents can affect students’ decisions regarding alcohol and discuss ways to talk with them about alcohol use.

The event at the school, 2901 Melrose Ave., is indicative of UI officials’ efforts to address dangerous drinking as “a community issue,” as UI Provost Wallace Loh sees it. One of the partnership’s goals, the co-head of the partnership said, is to involve the public in curbing overconsumption.

“There are no boundaries between the campus and the community,” Loh said.

Tonight’s event is also the first time the UI and Iowa City School District have formally partnered to address drinking, though local schools have hosted alcohol-education events before, said West High Principal Jerry Arganbright.

Organizers hope the gathering educates parents, and Arganbright wants it to serve to open up a dialogue on the issue.

“I’ve always felt that’s a conversation we needed to have in front of parents,” the principal said.
That conversation may be easier after tonight’s gathering.

“We will be giving helpful tips and information on how parents can best discuss these important issues with their children,” said Victoria Sharp, the UI’s special assistant to the provost for alcohol safety and a partnership member.

The forum will support the idea that parents should talk to their children about alcohol, Sharp said.

Officials say it’s important to catch potentially high-risk drinkers early. They’re often likely to continue to drink dangerously in college, and parents may not necessarily realize that, Loh said.

Sharing information at the discussion on the risks of underage drinking and drinking trends from students in middle school, high school, and college may help.

According to the Journal of Studies on Alcohol, children of parents who communicated, set clear expectations, and were involved with their children between ages 10 and 11 were less likely to start using alcohol early and less likely to misuse it by ages 17 and 18.

And though Iowa City parent Dave Streb has talked several times with his City High teenage daughter about alcohol, he said he likes the idea of parents receiving help on ways to talk about drinking.

“I’m sure there’s a lot that the average person doesn’t know about the proper way to educate,” said Streb, who can’t attend the event.

Alcohol is “just one of many topics,” he said. “You’ve got to be up-front about it.”

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