The Cupertino City Council approved an ordinance Tuesday holding parents responsible for any underage drinking or marijuana smoking that goes on under their roof.
But they disagreed about how severe the punishment should be.
The ordinance calls for a first-offense fine of $500 for anyone who owns, rents or leases the premises where underage drinking or marijuana consumption take place. A second violation would draw a fine double that.
Meanwhile, teens 18 and younger would be required to complete a Santa Clara County sheriff’s-approved alcohol and drug abuse prevention course for a first offense. A repeat violation would require them to complete 25 hours of community service and a third one within a year would require them to do 40 hours.
While Councilman Steven Scharf suggested that’s too many community service hours, especially for teens drowning in homework and other obligations, Councilman Barry Chang argued such offenses should carry an even higher punishment because “one time is really bad already.” He offered the Audrie Pott case as an example.
“Saratoga, a couple years ago, had one really, really bad incident. They just made a girl drunk and then raped her and then they took the picture and posted it so that girl ended up committing suicide,” Chang said. “So, it’s really bad. And then the parents sued the school, sued the other kids’ families. So I think $500 and $1,000 is too low. I think if you want to get attention, probably $5,000 and $10,000 will get everybody’s attention.”
Nevertheless, the council unanimously passed the ordinance after agreeing a teen commission had done a thorough job researching the topic. Mayor Darcy Paul requested that the commission explore the level and types of fines issued by neighboring cities before the ordinance is officially adopted.
Members of the teen commission who addressed the council emphasized that the ordinance is meant to serve more as an incentive for parents to supervise or stop illegal conduct at parties on their property than as a punitive measure.
Campbell, Los Altos Hills and Mountain View are the remaining municipalities in the region without such an ordinance. According to Al Bito, a spokesman for Campbell, the city just began studying the issue at the behest of former mayor Mike Kotowski.
Cupertino’s ordinance closely mirrors regulations already in place in nearby Monte Sereno, San Jose, Saratoga and Sunnyvale. Saratoga’s ordinance was passed four years before the death of Pott, a 15-year-old Saratoga High School student who hanged herself inside her mother’s bathroom eight days after she was sexually assaulted in a home during an unsupervised Labor Day weekend party. It was revealed that the teenagers, including Pott, drank alcohol from the liquor cabinet at the home.
Daniel Mestizo, Cupertino’s recreation director, said the Pott case was brought up in the teen commission’s deliberations of Cupertino’s social host ordinance.
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