By Anna-Claire Terry
A town hall meeting was held Thursday night at Covington Recreation Center by the Lee County Coalition Advocating Responsible Environments (CARES.) This meeting’s topic was underaged drinking in Lee County. A panel of county officials and experts answered questions from citizens. Panelists were Judge Mike Fellows; Circuit Judge for family and juvenile issues in Lee County, Officer Jonathan Duncan; Opelika Police Department school resource officer, Brett Smith; partner at Huff Smith Law Firm, Verlinda White; East Alabama Mental Health staff training director, and Brandon Hughes; Lee County District Attorney elect.
According to Hughes, and the other panelists the most effective way to fix the underaged drinking problem is parent communication with their children. Fellows and Hughes both said simply telling teens to not drink is not enough. There has to be a conversation. “If you want a kid to do something, you tell them ‘no’, Hughes said. “It just heightens their curiosity. Hughes said. Smith pointed out that teenage years are not the most reasonable and intellectual time period in a person’s life, so lessons need to be taught.
When asked how underaged drinking can affect the kids, White said it puts impaired individuals in schools and work places and keeps them from being productive in society and reaching their full potential. According to Fellows, it is the job of parents, teachers and coaches to guide the youth of Lee County in a direction that will lead them to living a happy and successful life. He added that he has seen first hand in his courtroom the bad decisions that alcohol can cause young, and even older people to make.
A community resource was also open to the public at the event.