Ramapo officials step up anti-drinking message

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The latest case of underage drinking in the Hudson Valley has Ramapo police and school officials taking a proactive stance.Police say they found 30 mostly underage people drinking at a late-night weekend party at a Montebello house. The 20-year-old host, who has not been identified, was arrested.Incidents like the weekend house party have parents worried for their children, and educators are taking notice. "It's sad and it's scary, but in the same token, you understand how difficult it is for a 16-, 17-year-old kid to say no to friends?" says Joe Sigillo, director of physical education for the East Ramapo School District.

Sigillo says his district has had a drug and alcohol education program on the elementary level for years, but now high school athletes are helping to get out the word.

"Periodically, throughout the year they go to the middle schools and elementary schools and speak to those kids about the dangers of alcohol, some of the peer pressure issues," Sigillo says. "If they've been in any situation where they've had to turn it down."The Ramapo Police Department also plans to participate in meetings at local high schools. The first of such meetings will take place April 7 from 7 to 9 p.m. at Suffern High School.

While some are optimistic about the programs, other parents remain skeptical about the extent to which outside forces can influence kids. "I believe it always lies within the home," says Ramapo High School parent Rose Dealmada. "That's the beginning route of all teaching."

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