POSTED ON DECEMBER 5, 2007:
Good Times, Big Fines
With "Cody's Law," the supervised house party's over
"It's a part of growing up."
"We did it when we were kids."
"I want my kids to be open with me and think of me as a friend."
"They're going to do it anyway, so they may as well do it where we can supervise."
Such are some of the rationales of parents who let their teenagers and their friends use alcohol and drugs in their homes, presumably in the interest of being the "cool parents" of popular kids by turning their homes into regular party-centers.
This phenomenon might be unheard of among most of the sane and responsible parents here in the Buckle of the Bible Belt, but Mark and Sareva Greenhaw of Broken Arrow are all too painfully aware that it happens.
Despite their being as responsible as they say they could have been, and as sane as they could be under the circumstances, they've spent the past three years channeling their grief from the loss of their son by lobbying for tougher laws against such "cool parents," most recently before the Tulsa City Council.
To the puzzled bewilderment of at least one reporter, it was actually technically legal to let kids imbibe alcohol in one's home.
That is, until the City Council unanimously passed a new ordinance last week, in answer to the Greenhaws' impassioned appeal, making it a misdemeanor to knowingly and willfully allow anyone under the age of 21 to consume or possess alcohol or controlled substances on one's property or residence, imposing a fine between $250 and $1,200 and up to six months in jail.
"He was a kind, sensitive and caring kid," said a tearful Sareva Greenhaw about her son Cody last week as she addressed the Council.
"It was not uncommon to hear from other parents that he was their favorite among their kids' friends. He was the boy next door. He was a good student and he was involved in athletics and church," she continued.
"He was also involved in drugs," Greenhaw added.
Signs and Symptoms
It was January 2004 when they first noticed what they later realized were symptoms of Cody's drug use, she said.
"We started to notice changes, but we attributed it to normal teenage stress, and to Accutane, a prescription drug he was taking," said Greenhaw.
Another peculiar change was that he spent a lot of time at the home of another boy he'd met playing baseball "who he thought was strange a year earlier," she said.
He'd often stay the night at this boy's home, and the Greenhaw's would call his parents to make sure he was where he said he'd be, thinking it unusual that he would spend so much time there.
The mother told them that all of her son's friends liked to stay over because she's "not much of a housekeeper" and let them "roughhouse and wrestle" indoors.
"That made sense to me, because I make them go outside to roughhouse," said Sareva.
It was June of that year before the Greenhaws suspected anything was amiss. The marijuana Mark found in the glove compartment of his son's truck at that time told them there was more to Cody's weekend activities than late night, adult-supervised indoor wrestling matches.
He and his wife confronted Cody about it, who confessed that it was his and that he had been selling marijuana to his friends to cover the costs of his own drug use.
"We never thought our son would ever use drugs, but here he was selling it to other kids," said Sareva.
"We told him we were ashamed of him," she said.
They grounded him for seven weeks, took away his truck, and made him submit to random drug tests.
Also, they consulted a substance abuse counselor who told them, "You're doing the right thing."
"We thought that would be the end of his substance abuse problem," said Sareva.
After nearly two months under the close supervision by his parents, Cody's drug test came back negative.
"We told him we were proud of him," his mother said.
While still testing him for drug use at random times, the Greenhaws believed their son's dabbling into the world of illicit drugs was behind him, so they gave him some of his freedom back.
They let him resume staying at his friend's house, "knowing" he'd be under the supervision of responsible adults.
After one such outing on a Friday night in September 2004, he came home the next day, and wound up sleeping all morning, which Sareva said was his usual routine after a night at this particular friend's house.
"I knew the boys stayed up all night playing video games," his mother said.
When he asked to stay over at his friend's house again that night, the Greenhaws initially denied him, "but he begged us to let him, because it was his friend's birthday," said Sareva.
"He said all of his other friends would be there, and that we owed it to him because, he said, 'I've done everything you've asked me to do,'" she added.
So, they let him.
"And now we have to live with the knowledge that, if we'd said 'no,' he might still be with us today," she said, tearfully.
Police officers showed up at their church in Broken Arrow that Sunday to inform them that their son was dead from a drug overdose.
"These parents didn't even call us to tell us our son died in their home," said Sareva.
Nine weeks later, when they finally got the results of the toxicology report, the Greenhaws learned that Cody had ingested a lethal mixture of alcohol and methadone at the party, and with the full knowledge of his friend's parents.
Through the course of the ensuing investigation into their son's death, they also learned that the parents of Cody's friend not only allowed their own kids and their friends to drink and use drugs in their home, but contributed and participated themselves.
"This was a part of this family's normal, day-to-day activity," said Sareva.
The Friday night before he died, she learned, the friend's father "allegedly" sent Cody and his own son to pick up cocaine from a drug dealer, which the three then used together upon their return.
They also learned that these parents had taught Cody how to beat the drug tests, and continued to cover for him and their son's other friends in their drug-related activities.
"We had no idea there were parents who would not only cover for kids who are doing these things, but would do them with the kids," said Sareva.
Making Up for Lost Time
In the aftermath of their loss, the Greenhaws have channeled their grief by crusading for tougher laws against such adult delinquents.
Last year, the state Legislature passed "Cody's Law" after hearing the Greenhaws' appeal.
The relatively new law, authored by the Tulsa County Commissioner Formerly Known as Rep. Fred Perry and by Sen. Scott Pruitt, both Republicans from Broken Arrow, makes it a felony to knowingly permit anyone under the age of 21 to consume alcohol or drugs on one's property or residence if that consumption leads to "great bodily injury" or death.
The law imposes a fine of up to $5,000 and imprisonment of up to five years.
Tulsa city attorney Drew Rees said the new ordinance differs from the state law in that it applies regardless of whether the substance use results in death or injury.
"This ordinance closes the loophole that allows this to happen," said Councilor Dennis Troyer, who proposed it on the Greenhaws' behalf.
While it's already illegal to provide alcohol and other substances to the underaged, Rees explained that before the new ordinance passed last week, it wasn't technically illegal to allow them to consume alcohol already in their possession on one's property.
The councilor said that "loophole" has affected other Tulsa-area residents than the Greenhaws, pointing to a recent shooting at a Halloween party where alcohol and/or drugs were present.
"The home owner at that party was only 19," said Troyer.
Besides the new state law and the Tulsa city ordinance, the Greenhaws' crusade has resulted in nine other municipalities in the state adopting social host laws, including Owasso.
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