Judges bring Torrey Pines parents into the world of the juvenile court system

Parents, staff told that school has 'significant' drug, alcohol problem

By Marsha Sutton

Contributor

When San Diego County Juvenile Court Judge Carolyn Caietti told an associate she was preparing to visit Torrey Pines High School to speak to parents about juvenile issues, her colleague replied, "Oh, you're going to the drug school."

San Diego Superior Court Judge Frederic Link did not hold back. "You have a significant alcohol problem in this school," he said to parents at an evening program called "Justice 101 for Parents," held Feb. 24 at TPHS. "You have a significant marijuana problem in this school. You have a significant OxyContin problem in this school."

When it comes to the prevalence and easy availability of OxyContin, in particular, "Torrey Pines is king," Link said.

This sobering message was delivered to about 150 parents and visitors who came to hear Caietti and Link talk about the juvenile court system, how it works, what kinds of cases they see, the legal and financial responsibility parents have for their under-18 children, and what parents can do to keep kids out of trouble.

"Justice 101 for Parents" is an extension of the "Justice 101 for Students" program, which was started about 10 years ago by Link and is the only program of its kind in the state.

This past January, Torrey Pines High School seniors who participated in "Justice 101 for Students" observed an interactive presentation by Link and attended actual courtroom proceedings.

The program is specifically geared toward high school seniors, because they are "about to enter the adult word," Link said. The goal is "to leave a lasting impression on graduating seniors."

"They come in a boy or a girl," he said. "But next year they're going to be a man or a woman."

Both programs inform students and parents of the real-life consequences of making poor choices regarding drugs, alcohol, sex, drunk driving, curfew violations, cyber-bullying, vandalism, "sexting" and other offenses common to the juvenile court system.

"Don't do something stupid," Link tells the students. "I don't want to see you in this courtroom." He told the parents this as well, in his TPHS presentation.

Link said that 75 to 80 percent of the kids he sees in his program said they've attended parties where drugs or alcohol were present. In about 40 percent of those cases, the kids said parents furnished the alcohol.

"Why can't you say no?" he asked. "Why can't you set rules?"

Link said kids have their own world with their own set of rules, and "they don't want you in their world. You parents are not a part of this world. Your children's lives are run by their peers."

But he said that doesn't mean parents should simply give in and let their kids run their lives free of outside interference, saying their world would resemble "Lord of the Flies" without the influence of parents and other authority figures.

"You have to devote your life to them," Link said. "You have to have dinner with them every night. Talk to them. Listen to them."

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