Beaufort County school board member Julie Bell talks about teen substance abuse Thursday during a meeting of parents and community and school leaders at Hilton Head Island High School.(Photo: Jay Karr, the Island Packet)
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A wreck that killed a 17-year-old girl and severely injured four of her friends last year is prompting a group of Hilton Head Island residents to fight teen alcohol and drug abuse.
A group of about 25 parents, educators and community leaders, which gathered for the first time Thursday at Hilton Head Island High School, was asked to consider this scenario:
Imagine you're at a grocery store, and you see a teenager attempt to buy a case of beer. The cashier doesn't check the teen's ID. Do you stop the purchase?
"Too many times, parents and community members are not responding in what I would say is an appropriate way when we see those things happen," Beaufort County School District instructional services chief Sean Alford said. "Unfortunately, we are at a point in time in our community when that has had negative effects in a very material way."
The meeting was organized by school board member Julie Bell, Hilton Head High principal Amanda O'Nan and Hilton Head High parent Roberta Foss. They hope to create a community coalition to combat a problem that Alford said has gone on too long.
Bell said a November crash on Indigo Run Drive that killed driver Kendall Walton, 17, and injured four other teens, was a catalyst for the meeting.
Alford said the meeting was just the "beginning of a community conversation."
He presented information about similar groups in other communities where he has worked, including the Community Roundtable of Irmo, Dutch Fork and Chapin and the Richland One Community Coalition.
Attendees were encouraged to start small: If they hear about a teen party, report it; if they see teens trying to buy alcohol at a store, stop it.
" 'If you see something, say something' is a good starting point," Bell said.
Alford said the district will apply for a grant with the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to help fund the effort.
Attendees were encouraged to bring a friend to the next meeting, which Bell said would be next month. Bell said she hoped to hold it at a private school to try to reach out to more people.
Ultimately, organizers want the coalition to have a variety of members, including parents, law enforcement officers, social service agencies, educators, health care workers and clergy.
"All those folks are a piece of the puzzle," Alford said.
Follow reporter Rachel Heaton at twitter.com/HomeroomBft.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
- Community Roundtable of Irmo, Dutch Fork and Chapin
- Richland One Community Coalition
- Hilton Head Prep student dies in car wreck at Indigo Run; Nov. 18, 2011
- Teen driver killed in wreck on Hilton Head bought alcohol found in car; Dec. 16, 2011