June 23, 2011
Texas Governor Rick Perry signed a bill into law that gives immunity to a minor seeking help for a friend in an emergency.
Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, authored the bill, and wants everyone, from parents to students, to know it’s OK to get help.
“I’ve said this to my own children,” said Watson. “If you ever find yourself in a bad situation and you know I’m not going to be happy, and I wouldn’t approve, you can still call me.”
That’s the philosophy the senator wants people to adopt, especially college students.
Beth Bartz will be a University of Texas sophomore who knows college life often times is about drinking.
“Are you kidding me?” she said. “Absolutely.”
But when tough times called for an adult to help, Bartz said she and her friends stayed away from authority figures.
“We’re always like ‘we’re going to get in trouble. No I’m going to get in trouble. You’re going to get in trouble. No, we can’t do that.'”
Watson’s law allows the first person to seek help for a friend in danger of alcohol poisoning, for example, to be immune from trouble. The law also gives courts more tools to punish those who coerce students into drinking.
Hazing at a California college in 2008 took the life of Austinite Carson Starkey. The 18 year old was Watson’s son’s best friend.
“Carson kind of grew up in our house,” said Watson.
Starkey’s parents are moving forward in a positive direction they say offers comfort. They want laws similar to Texas’ to be enacted. Since Starkey’s death, they say California has adopted a measure like Watson’s.
“We can help other families from having to suffer this loss,” said Julia Starkey, Carson’s mother.
Scott Starkey, Carson’s father, gives teenagers the benefit of the doubt. He knows they want to make the right call, but believes the pressures of parents and others make it hard to do.
“I think if they know that, if they have that confidence in the back of their mind, that they’ll intuitively make the right decision,” he said. “I think they want to make the right decisions, they just are a little scared to.”
Bartz will bring with her the basics she’s always been taught, like there is strength in numbers.
“You got to watch your friend’s back and you got to watch your own back,” she said.
But she will also know this year that help is just a fearless phone call away.
For more on the Starkey story and how you can learn the dangers of alcohol poisoning, click here. They will soon begin a new campaign called “Aware, Awake, Alive” they hope will be spread at all schools for students to learn.