Some parents who think of themselves as socially enlightened, but are actually irresponsibly permissive, play host to drinking parties for their teenage children.
Their thinking is that if they don't let their kids and their kids' friends booze it up at home, where mom and pop can keep an eye on them, then they'll do it somewhere else with no supervision and get in a heap of trouble - such as a drunken-driving accident or promiscuous sex that causes pregnancies.
This is not clear thinking. In fact, it's nonsense. Parental "supervision" of teenage drinking is no guarantee that bad things won't happen; it does, however, send a message that the activity is condoned, or even encouraged, by adults - and that can lead to even more teen drinking.
This is why the South Carolina Supreme Court is to be commended for cracking down on grown-ups who permit teenage drinking. The justices recently ruled unanimously in two cases that adults who knowingly serve alcohol to minors at parties can face lawsuits or damages if the underage drinkers harm themselves or others.
"This is a watershed decision," said Charleston lawyer George Kefalos, who represented a plaintiff who was awarded $750,000 in damages against a company that had let a 19-year-old get drunk and drive, causing a fatal accident.
The court previously held that adults playing host to other adults with alcohol could not be held civilly liable for what happens after their guests leave, but that didn't apply when minors are involved because it is against the law to serve minors alcohol in the first place. Consequently, adults may be held accountable for what flows from that unlawful act.
If parents think that letting their kids party with booze is a safe activity, then they can ignore the high court's ruling at their own peril. But we doubt many parents will take that gamble - not when it's their pocketbooks at risk.
Serving alcohol to children is a bad idea, period. It shouldn't take a court ruling to make that clear.