Parents dread this Senior Week scenario: a call from a police department located hours away at the beach, informing them that their teenager is in trouble.
And so one Ocean City police officer, speaking last year at a program in Howard County, made an unusual offer to local parents:
“He gave the parents his cell phone number,” said Joan Webb Scornaienchi, director of HC DrugFree, a Columbia-based nonprofit dedicated to keeping youth free of drugs, including alcohol. HC DrugFree is a co-sponsor of the program.
“He promised them that if they did not hear from their son or daughter, they were to call him, and he would go over and find their son or daughter and say to them: ‘You need to call home and call home now.’ ”
The police officer, Howard Caplan, will be back in Howard County tonight (March 3), speaking at River Hill High School in Clarksville for this year’s edition of “Senior Week: Staying Safe in Ocean City.”
Caplan will be joined by Ocean City’s beach patrol crew chief, James McVey, as they speak to parents and teens about how to do Senior Week in Ocean City responsibly while still having fun.
“Ocean City police experience a dramatic increase in incidents and calls for service in June – and that’s when the teenagers suddenly arrive,” Scornaienchi said. “This is the first time that many of these kids are away from home without parents or other adult supervision.”
And so Caplan will speak about what he sees each year.
“He’ll address drug and alcohol issues. He’ll talk about underage drinking, law enforcement, teen sexual encounters after a few drinks – how both teen boys and girls can make wise decisions rather than going off with someone they just met,” Scornaienchi said.
“It’s more than drugs and alcohol, but many of these topics come back to drug- and alcohol-related choices.”
Caplan is also expected to give practical advice not directly related to teen behavior: inspecting their hotel rooms when they check in for damages and missing items to make sure they don’t get wrongly billed for something they didn’t do; parking their cars and choosing to use the bus to get around; and taking advantage of promotions around Ocean City.
As for advice for parents:
“He suggested last year that they do not give cash to their teens, but to use things like prepaid credit cards,” Scornaienchi said. “That way if a teen needs more money, he or she has to call home, and then the parent can find out what happened to the money they gave them.”
Also: “He wants teenagers to call home every night before the parents go to bed. He doesn’t want the parents to say ‘Text me’ or ‘Have a friend call.’ He wants the parents to talk to them, to know that their kids are safe so the parents can get a good night of sleep, and for the teenagers to have some limits.”
As for McVey, the beach patrol crew chief, he’s expected to speak about safety around the ocean, particularly about rip currents, Scornaienchi said.
And while this program has been offered more than once per year in previous years, this’ll be the lone evening for parents and teens to attend before the 2011 Senior Week.
Senior Week: Staying Safe in Ocean City will begin at 7 p.m. at , 12101 Clarksville Pike (Route 108), Clarksville.