Local News

Wakefield Parent Seeks Changes in Law After Student's Death

Posted January 28, 2007 5:13 p.m. EST
Updated January 31, 2007 11:08 a.m. EST

— Two weeks since a car crash killed a Wakefield High student, one parent wants the law expanded to make parents more accountable.

Fellow students said Sadiki Young and his two friends were at an unsupervised party where teens were drinking before Young’s death. The 18-year-old driver of the car, Christopher John Palmeri, survived and now faces involuntary manslaughter charges. Although investigators said speed caused the wreck, alcohol was found in the driver’s bloodstream.

Wakefield students and parents said parties like the one that Young, Palmeri and another teen attended happen almost every weekend, and sometimes they’re supervised by adults.

“It struck me as, ‘How are they getting alcohol, and where are they drinking it?’” said Wakefield High parent Len Anthony. “Parents are staying home and basically hosting or giving children the opportunity to come into their home and drink.”

Anthony is also a corporate attorney. He's pushing to make it illegal for parents to host parties attended by underage drinkers.

Under current North Carolina law, it’s illegal for anyone to sell or give alcohol to those under 21.
According to several Wakefield High students and parents, parents are not the ones providing alcohol to teens at the reported house parties, but they provide a place for them to drink.

Anthony said even allowing teens to drink in the home should be a crime that could carry hefty fines and possible jail time. State Sen. Neal Hunt, R-Wake, said he’s thinking about sponsoring an amendment to the current law that Anthony wrote.

“If there is a gap there, it may be something we need,” Hunt said.

This is not the first time that drinking has led to tragedy for Wakefield High students. Last March, Baker Wood, 18; Anthony Bostic, 17; Steven George, 18; and Timothy Steinberg, 18, were returning from a championship high-school basketball game in Greenville when, according to police, Wood hit a concrete barrier on the Poole Road exit and crashed nearly 60 feet to the ground. All four teens were killed.

Wood was driving at more than 100 mph, police said. A medical examiner's report showed he had a blood-alcohol level of 0.21 percent -- more than twice the legal limit of 0.08 percent for adult drivers.

Wakefield's Parent Teacher Student Association president Saundra Freeman said she also thinks there needs to be more parent involvement.

“We're open to all ideas, and we recognize even more that we've got to get the parents' attention,” Freeman said.

Anthony said that tougher laws might be the only thing that will make parents and teachers to take notice.

“My goal is, if you won't learn the lesson because it's the right thing to do, maybe you'll learn a lesson because there's a pretty severe consequence for not doing the right thing,” he said.

A defense attorney told WRAL that he thinks it would be easy to prosecute parents if they are home during a party where underage drinking takes place. But he also said it becomes more difficult to hold them liable if they aren't there and didn't provide the alcohol.

Within the last two years, other states have passed laws specific to adults who let children drink in their homes. In Rhode Island, a first violation carries a fine up to $1,000 and up to six months in prison. And in Wyoming, it's a misdemeanor crime for anyone to allow an open house party in which alcohol or illegal drugs are consumed by minors.