Rhode Island high schools have faced the grave problem of underage drinking in recent years as too many young people have died in tragic accidents as the result of drunk driving. Grief has grown into outrage as the problem has not subsided but seems only to be increasing among students of both our public and private schools.
LaSalle Academy recently suspended 31 students for participating in underage drinking at a party held at a student’s home. The local news media reporting on the event seemed bewildered that a school should seek to discipline its students with such swift justice. Yet, in the face of such continued tragedy, LaSalle Academy’s rapid response to this problem among their own student population is a light in the darkness of denial. For far too long many Rhode Island parents and teenagers have refused to believe that there is indeed a problem with underage drinking.
The theme for the upcoming 2008 Catholic School Week is “Catholic Schools Light the Way”. A theme which focuses upon the leadership that Catholic schools provide to our nation and highlights the spiritual foundation of Catholic schools. The slogan, "Catholic Schools Light the Way" reminds us that we are called to "light the way" to the kingdom for others even as we walk "the way" of discipleship and grow in faith. It is a fitting theme for Catholic schools but also an appropriate theme for the courageous action taken by LaSalle Academy. The administration’s actions of disciplining students, informing parents and providing an educational program about underage drinking will indeed “Light the Way.”
We commend the administration of LaSalle Academy for their swift justice in reacting to the actions by a small percentage of its students. LaSalle has addressed the insidious problem of underage drinking in a frank and forthright manner. The academy is a model not only for Catholic schools but all schools across our state. Their willingness to hold students accountable for their actions is a lesson in personal responsibility not only for students but also for their parents and peers.
Far too many of our young people have died because of underage drinking as parents and peers look on in despair. Far too many parents seem to be in denial about the danger of such illegal drinking as they either actively encourage such destructive behavior or silently stand by in apathy. Far too many communities in our state are unwilling to shed the light upon the darkness of this grave problem inflicting our communities and choose to keep the status quo.
The actions of 31 LaSalle students were clearly wrong. In addressing this issue with swift justice, LaSalle Academy has provided our state a great service by shedding a light upon the need to challenge our young people about the ills of underage drinking. We hope parents, teachers, administrators and students will follow the light of LaSalle and begin to challenge our youth, not coddle them.
We commend LaSalle Academy for making this challenge to all of Rhode Island!