Our View: Underage drinking a problem for the ages

Under clear skies early May 5, Katelyn Marie Duplantis’ life was forever changed and Cleveland Towns’ was lost.

Duplantis, 18, of Chauvin, had been at a party with friends, likely celebrating her impending graduation. After all, the South Terrebonne High School soon-to-be grad had earned a 4.0 grade point average. The class valedictorian’s future was bright.

Despite her age – the legal drinking age in Louisiana is 21 – Duplantis imbibed. She drank beyond the .02 allowed for her age. When state police tested her alcohol level later that morning before booking her into the Terrebonne jail, Duplantis blew .095 – more than is legally allowed in someone age 21.

Blame it on youth, negligence or some other cause, but the decision to drink that night put into motion tragic events that will forever change the lives of Duplantis’ and Towns’ families.

Without the alcohol, all of the dominos that fell on that night would still be in place.

But the dynamics of the case also are worth noting.

By all accounts, Ms. Duplantis is a good kid who made a terrible mistake – one that will haunt her for the rest of her life.

But if the players within the case were altered slightly, would the situation be playing out the same way? Attorneys and legal experts have told the Tri-Parish Times this week that Duplantis will likely avoid jail time, but will receive some other punishment.

Would the same be the case if Towns was behind the wheel of the golf cart and Duplantis’ car was wrapped around a tree?

Likewise, if Duplantis wasn’t a glistening academic student, but instead a problem child that was frequently in trouble within his/her classes, would he/she also receive a second chance at life – something Towns didn’t get to receive?

The case is now in the courts and authorities will decide what punishment Duplantis will face for her mistakes.

But no matter how it’s sliced, one thing cannot be disputed.

There were no winners on May 5 – just losers.

Both Cleveland Towns and Katelyn Marie Duplantis were forever changed when the first drop of alcohol touched the young woman’s tongue.

Until parents and their young offspring acknowledge that underage drinking is illegal and should not be tolerated, the problem will linger. For too long, this community has ignored that fact.

Parents shrug and rationalize that as long as their child drinks at home, it’s OK. Others host parties, again thinking they are containing their children’s desire.

Bottom line, Duplantis elected to drink. She also opted to – even momentarily – drive an illegal vehicle onto the road. Because of those choices, her life will never be the same. And who is to say it should. Certainly, not Mr. Towns.