"7 Reasons to Leave the Party," a blunt, visual and interactive school program designed to curb dangerous teen behavior was presented to several Metro-East high schools Wednesday.

Launched in September 2007 by the Illinois Judges Association (IJA), the hope of '7 Reasons' is to get every teenager in Illinois to sign a "contract" with a parent or guardian, pledging not to drink alcohol, not to drive with someone who has been drinking, and to promise that, if they are at a place where they feel uncomfortable or unsafe, they will call the parent or guardian for a ride home, no questions asked.

Students at Edwardsville High School, Metro-East Lutheran High School and Belleville East High School were presented the 50-minute, award-winning presentation.

Mark A. Drummond, a judge in the 8th Judicial Circuit in Quincy, led the program. In Belleville he was joined by Illinois Supreme Court Justice Lloyd Karmeier, Appellate Court Justice James Wexstten and 20th Circuit Judges John Baricevic, Annette Eckert, Vincent J. Lopinot and Heinz Rudolf.

'7 Reasons' provides 7th through 12th grade students with information about the consequences of poor choices.

Drummond's talk was peppered with true stories of teens who made wrong decisions. He drove home this message to students: "Encourage your friends to avoid wrong behavior, and you can prevent them from having a criminal record or losing their driver's license. You may even save a life."

"By the time a teen hits the courthouse, it is too late," said Drummond, a father of three who made a similar pact with his children when they were teenagers.

"This is our attempt as judges at preventative law. Most teens want to do the right thing, and hopefully they'll encourage their peers to do the same."

The first five percent of teens at each school, who present a signed contract to their driver's education teacher or other school official, will receive a key chain flashlight, courtesy of the IJA.

Drummond's presentation opens with a hip-hop music track that sets the tone for a typical teenage house party. There is unlawful behavior going on in each room. Drummond walks the audience through the home, spelling out the 7 reasons to leave the party.

He uses visuals, including a breathalyzer and medical urinalysis container, to underscore the message. Typically, he's bombarded with questions at the end. Students receive a one-page handout listing the 7 reasons to "leave the party." The reserve side has a message to the parent/guardian, and schools will be encouraged to send the piece to them.

"We hope to reach several thousand students and parents throughout Illinois with this important message," says Mark A. Schuering, also a judge in the 8th Judicial Circuit who is president of the Illinois Judges Association.

"Teens need to know the personal and legal consequences of drinking and driving, taking drugs and having underage sex," Schuering said. "Parents should be aware of the judges' attempt at preventative law.

"Many of the presentations will be scheduled just prior to homecoming, prom and other popular party times during the school year."

Here is the (copyrighted) contract:

7 Reasons to Leave the Party

Last year, 151 Illinois teens died in car crashes.
1. Do the math. Alcohol/drugs + cars = death.
2. You like the internet? So do schools and employers. YOUR record may be there.
3. Trust is fragile. Don't break it.
4. Movies are more fun than urine tests.
5. …and, by the way, they watch you urinate to prevent cheating.
6. That $2 beer may really cost $100s in fees and fines.
7. You waited 16 years for your driver's license. Don't lose it – or your car.

For further information about the program, write the Illinois Judges Association at 321 S. Plymouth Court, Chicago, IL 60604, call (312) 431-1283 or email the association at info@ija.org.

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