If you work in a school you are a mandated reporter: you must report suspected child abuse or neglect. Many schools include students drinking in that definition, even if the parents are aware and supporting. Now, many time the parents are trying to be the “cool” parent and allowing a kegger in their home. But many Jewish families allow their children to drink wine on Shabbat or Pesach. Many French and Italian families allow their children to drink wine as part of dinner. So, the question is how do you draw the line as a mandated reporter?
Here’s the scenario some of us face: we’re at an event – say, a family wedding or a gathering of old friends – and see underage drinking. It’s not our house, it’s not our event, but is it our responsibility? Some schools would say yes, others take a more nuanced view.
It comes into play when we’re on social media, too. MPOW’s rule is that we cannot connect with students until they’ve been out of school for five years. MFPOW had no rule beyond “use your common sense” (assuming, of course, we have some). But what if you have a teenager and their friends want to connect with you? Or you’re friends with your nieces and nephews, or the children of friends? Or you’re abiding by that five-year rule and those new former student/friends have younger siblings… And there, in a post or tweet or pin or something else, you see something you would, in the normal course of your work, have to report.
It’s a tricky line. Do you decline invitations to events where you know (or strongly suspect) that underage drinking will take place? Do you just bite your tongue, knowing that it’s not your event or responsibility?
Just a little something to think about as the Jewish holidays pass, as families and friends start to talk about winter gatherings, and possibly even plan for the spring and summer.