BETHESDA, Md. (WUSA) -- Underage drinking is one of the most important health issues of our time. Many kids begin drinking as early as middle school -- sometimes sooner. Kids who drink are more likely to be victims of violent crime and sexual assault.
Back in December 2011 an underage party bust took place at a Bethesda house. Usually they don't make headlines, but this one did because of an unusual move by the school's principal, Dr. Alan Goodwin. Dr. Goodwin tells 9NEWS NOW's, Andrea McCarren, he took his actions trying to keep his students safe.
"There's definitely a peer pressure. There's definitely a need to try to fit in," says Dr. Goodwin. "There's some students that rationalize that they deserve to relax because they're under so much academic and family stress."
When Walt Whitman High School principal Alan Goodwin learned from social media and student chatter that three dozen of his students had been arrested and given alcohol citations at an off-campus party, he didn't hesitate to act.
"I have a standard practice that if students are cited, that I give them some sort of consequence at school. Athletes miss a couple of games, student leaders and musicians and others, we negotiate with coaches and sponsors to try to figure out what the right punishment will be."
The Montgomery County School system lets individual principals decide whether illegal activity off-campus deserves on-campus punishment.
"It's an extra effort and it can be confrontational. And it is off school grounds. We have a very strict zero tolerance if an offense occurs on school grounds," says Goodwin.
Unlike the party in December during which an unsuspecting parent was out of town, police and school administrators are seeing a disturbing trend: parents actually hosting underage parties in their homes.
"It's very frustrating. I don't understand their rationalization. Sometimes they say it's to keep their own child safe, but they are meanwhile risking the lives of many others. It's maddening."
Goodwin urges parents to be more vigilant.
"Just because they survived high school and college, doesn't mean that their own child will, if they're not vigilant, they're not careful. And there's absolutely nothing worse than attending a student funeral."
9NEWS NOW checked with area schools and police departments. We found out that most police departments do not notify schools about alcohol citations that happen off campus, at non-school sponsored events. Some police departments do, if a felony is involved.
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