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posted: 1/16/2015 5:30 AM

Parents talk teen safety in Lincolnshire

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Parents concerned about their teens' safety packed the boardroom at Lincolnshire's village hall Thursday night for a frank discussion about drinking, drugs and the risks associated with the Internet.

They shared personal stories of abuse in their families, offered steps people could take to limit dangerous behavior and asked a panel of experts for help.

The talk was organized by Stand Strong, a consortium of groups and representatives working to prevent underage drinking and illegal drug use in the communities served by Lincolnshire's Stevenson High School.

Among the speakers on the dais was Sarah Comm, a Stevenson High alumna who's also a recovering drug user and alcoholic. She matter-of-factly spoke of starting to use drugs and drink when she was 14 and how the problems got worse over time, until she finally hit bottom and sought sobriety.

Comm especially warned the crowd of 50 or so people about parents who allow drinking in their homes.

"You'd be surprised how many parents support their kids' drinking," Comm said. "It's very scary."

She also urged the audience not to allow their kids to drive to sleepovers. She spoke of driving with her friends late at night and getting into trouble.

"Don't let your kids keep the car out if they're sleeping somewhere," Comm said. "Drop them off."

The other speakers were Lake County sheriff's detective Chris Covelli, Lincolnshire police officer Tom Branick, Stevenson High staffer and prevention expert Christina Cortesi, and Bruce Johnson, leader of the Lake County Underage Drinking and Drug Prevention Task Force.

Branick warned the group about the social hosting laws that hold parents responsible for deaths or damage that occur as a result of underage drinking in their homes.

Johnson talked about how sex assaults involving teens frequently involve alcohol or drugs.

"This is very real," he said.

Throughout the discussion, the panelists and the audience members made a number of safety suggestions.

Comm stressed the importance of locking medicine cabinets. Even over-the-counter cold medicine can be abused, she said.

"It's called robotripping," Comm said. "They'll drink an entire bottle of Robitussin to get high."

Cortesi suggested getting smaller-sized prescriptions for pain medication to reduce chances for abuse by teens.

"Educate your physicians," she said.

The prevalence of mobile devices was a topic of much angst, too.

Some parents admitted being surprised by what their children say online, and whom they text.

The experts urged the parents not to let their kids keep cellphones and tablets in their rooms after bedtime.

Covelli also insisted parents go through their teens' phones to review usage. Check their texts and what apps they use, he said.

"You have open access to their bedrooms, right?" Covelli said. "You should have open access to their phones."

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