Grad Night: When Teen Antics Become a Game of Death


The tragic drowning of a young man in Georgia has reminded parents of how dangerous “Grad Night” can be. Eighteen-year-old Chance Werner had just graduated high school hours earlier when he and his friends decided to play a game they called “the shopping cart game.” The kids took turns being pushed to the edge of a dock in a shopping cart, hoping to be rocketed through the air and enjoy some cheap thrills. The cart was tied to a pole to provide the necessary torque, but in this case, Chance tied the cart rope to his belt loop.

Accidents happen all the time in the hours after graduation, leading many communities to create Grad Night festivities, parties sponsored by local school districts hoping to lure teens away from drugs, alcohol and other dangers. Chance’s death was unusual for a Grad Night accident. Most are drunken driving or binge drinking related deaths. Still, parents must always be mindful of just what their kids are doing on what feels like the most important night of their young lives.

Many parents think they do know what antics their kids will take part in, but they don’t follow through to be sure, trusting their children and treating them like young adults. As important as trust is, you still must do your due diligence as a parent. If your child is graduating high school, don’t just take their word for where they’re going that night. Instead:

  • Have your teen check in with you as soon as he/she arrives at the party. If there is supposed to be grad night festivity sponsored by the school, there should be a teacher around to verify the location.
  • Even better, drive your teen and friends to the party and pick them up. This makes it harder for any of them to get somewhere they shouldn’t be.
  • After dropping off your teen, have him/her check in every hour. Listen for sounds of slurred speech as a sign that drinking may be involved. Also listen for the expected type of background noise for wherever you dropped them off. If there is loud music in the background, that could be cause for concern

Many modern parents don’t want to be seen as overbearing and will back off when their teens become upset about these types of rules. But as much as you might dislike developing such a reputation, it’s better than the alternative of an injured child.

Still, even doing everything you can, something terrible can happen to your kid. When something does happen, it can be difficult to get the answers you need. If someone you love is injured in an accident, on grad night or any other night, don’t hesitate to contact a lawyer to get to the bottom of exactly what happened.

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Finz & Finz, P.C. is a New York and Long Island personal injury law firm based out of Mineola, NY. It was founded in 1984 and is highly rated, with many honors and awards of excellence.