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Column: The problem of underage drinking
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Michael Kaas is a young man who recently posted a petition on Change.org  in protest of local police enforcing laws regarding underage drinking. He complains that arresting Georgia Southern students is ruining their lives.


In a statement on the website, he claims police are harassing students by arresting them for underage possession of alcohol.


“For them to purposely try and ruin the lives of the college students, they're supposed to protect, with (minor in possession)  arrests is so messed up,” he wrote. “We as a student body, have done nothing wrong, and for the city to take out what has happened out on us is not right”


By “what has happened,” Kaas likely refers to increased police attention to curtailing underage drinking after the death of Michael Gatto following a physical altercation at Rude Rudy’s bar.  A bouncer the business claimed was off duty, 20-year-old James Grant Spencer, is behind bars on murder and aggravated battery charges in connection with the 18-year-old’s death.


Not right, Mr. Kaas?  What is “not right” about enforcing the law?


As a student body, no, you’ve done nothing wrong. But as individuals who are under age 21, who go to bars and find ways to drink, become intoxicated, and sometimes hurt others or get hurt, well, what part of that is right?


There are reasons for the drinking age law. Some argue the point that if age 18 is old enough to vote and serve your country, you should be old enough to drink. If you subscribe to that argument, your best bet is to launch a campaign to persuade legislators to change the law.


Kaas wrote further: “We're tired of this money-grubbing mission to arrest all of us students, and we need to let Statesboro know. If things don't change very soon, I say we take a class action law suit against the city of Statesboro for police harassment.”


First of all, no one wants to arrest all students. They only want to arrest those breaking the law.  I don’t think you will find an attorney who won’t at least crack a smile at the idea of a class action lawsuit against the city and police for enforcing the law.


Yes, I drank before I was 21. Most of us have. However, I didn’t get drunk until I was way past 21, and when my peers and I did partake of illicitly obtained alcohol, we were either in the privacy of our homes or somebody’s field at a bonfire party.


We weren’t in crowded bars where predators slip roofies into drinks, where some people go for the sole purpose of finding a drunken and unaware sex partner, where fights break out over simple things and where underage bouncers solicit alcohol specials and hurt people.


Kaas wrote: “I mean we're just college students trying to live our lives, but now we have to deal with these cops on a power trip, where they think they can just screw with anyone and everyone. This has to stop.”


No one has arrested anyone for simply having a party. There have been no arrests for going out with friends, attending sports events, or doing anything legal. If your fun depends on getting plastered, then something is wrong.


The problem here is, for way too long many of the bars have allowed underage kids to drink. The laws have not been enforced enough.  Young bouncers and bartenders turn a blind eye and let underage friends slip in, sometimes even giving them wristbands that indicate they are of age.


In the bars’ defense, there are way too many fake IDs out there. Today’s technology makes it simple to fashion a realistic fake ID, and sometimes it is hard to tell the ID is not valid.


Now that a young man, barely an adult, has lost his life in a bar where another underage young man reportedly beat him to death, police presence has increased.


Public attention to the underage drinking problem has demanded authorities do something. It’s sad that for so long the problem has run rampant without serious control, and now that enforcement has been ramped up, the underage people (not just college students but area high school students as well) are angry because their playground has been closed.


The true wrongdoing here is allowing underage people to enter bars where the sole reason for being there is to drink. Statesboro has only two “sports restaurants” and no “bars” officially, but we all know better.


Who goes to the University Plaza clubs for supper? The ordinance requiring these places to sell 50 percent food and 50 percent alcohol fudge numbers by charging for mixers and classifying them as “food.” Kaas mentions the name of a well-known family restaurant that serves alcohol, stating police “raided” it as well, but places like that don’t have the reputation for fights, injuries, and other problems that the true bars in this town do.


Students like Kaas are angry because it isn’t so easy to break the law anymore.


While it is true that there are many well over the age of 21 who lack maturity and the ability to be responsible when they drink, it doesn’t change the law. Those older ones are arrested on public drunk and disorderly conduct charges.


Life should not be about getting drunk. There is so much more to the college experience, and if drinking and partying are the main reasons someone enrolls at GSU, it doesn’t say much for him or her.


Statesboro benefits greatly from the university, but that doesn’t mean we will sell out to irresponsible debauchery and blatant disregard for the law.


To the underage kids who feel police are being unfair by slapping them with citations for underage possession of alcohol, I say redirect your energy to learning, growing and becoming a mature, responsible and productive citizen. No one wants to hamper your fun, but we don’t want reports of injury, sexual assault, fights and death involving local bars and underage people either.


Guess what, kids?  Somebody cares about you.

Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at 489-9414.