Hosting a party with underage substance use can result in civil and criminal liability for the adults involved. This applies whether the party is at your home or in a rented facility such as a recreation center, club or hotel.
Social Host Ordinances in many cities and towns hold parents strictly accountable and impose steep fines. Parents also may be sued civilly for damages if something goes wrong, such as an overdose or accident. Additionally, adults can face criminal misdemeanor charges for "furnishing” substances to a minor or “contributing to the delinquency of a minor”.
How to Host a House or Other Party
PLAN AHEAD. The overarching advice when hosting a party is to plan ahead. Planning a party together with your child offers an opportunity to have an open, healthy conversation about your rules, values and expectations, as well as the responsibilities and liabilities assumed when hosting a party.
SET GROUND RULES. Discuss your ground rules that need to be followed for the party to happen. Make clear that no alcohol, marijuana, smoking, vaping or other drugs will be allowed. Make sure your child is aware of the legal repercussions you face as an adult and host.
Other ground rules include a definite start and end time, designated areas of the home which will be open or off limits and the number of invited guests. Consider sending an email to parents informing them of your ground rules and giving out your contact info.
BE VISIBLE. Check in and be aware of what’s going on.
NEVER ALLOW ANYONE UNDER THE INFLUENCE TO DRIVE.
Attendance at House and Other Parties
At the very least, parents should ask their child for the location of a party their child is attending and the names of the parent hosts are.
DETERMINE IF THE PARENTS ARE AWARE OF THE PARTY AND ASK QUESTIONS. Inquire whether they will be present and actively chaperoning the party. Although it can be uncomfortable to ask additional questions, doing so will give you peace of mind. In particular, ask:
• What is the start and end time?
• Who will be chaperoning the party?
• Can I give you my phone number so you can contact me if there’s an issue?
Party buses are popular for special events such as Prom and can be a lot of fun. However, they are “parties on wheels” and without precautions, party buses can involve risky levels of binge drinking and other drug use. Parents can take several measures to help ensure there are no substances on the bus.
RENTING THE BUS. Most bus companies require a contract signed by an adult. If you are the one renting the bus, read the contract carefully, as they typically hold the renter responsible for any damage and extra clean up. Also be aware that renters are considered “hosts” under some social host laws and may incur legal consequences for underage substance use.
The positive aspect of signing the contract is the parent can set their own rules and require that all passengers and their parents agree to these rules ahead of time. This is highly advisable. Examples are that any backpacks, large purses and any wrapped gifts will either be opened and/or kept in the outside storage compartment, and no water or food can be brought on the bus (the host should provide water).
Be sure to rent from a reputable bus company that is licensed, has adequate liability insurance and qualified bus drivers. Some bus companies require chaperones as a matter of company policy or you may consider providing your own.
CONTACT THE HOSTING PARENT. As with house parties, parents are advised to contact the hosting parent to determine whether there will be substances allowed on the bus and what measures will be taken to prevent substance use, such as the ones suggested above.
Where’s the Party by Jonathan Scott and Kelly Townsend. This book is the ultimate guide to issues surrounding teen parties. It also includes an excellent discussion of the teen brain, consequences and understanding peer pressure.