15 Shots Killed Shelby Allen
What's perhaps more shocking is that the 17-year-old drank them at a friend's house, while the parents were home. Here, how her mom is fighting to make sure no other child dies this way
A Mother's Mission continued...
"My stance is that teens shouldn't experiment with alcohol, which means they shouldn't drink at all, because what they wind up doing is seeing how much they can drink before they pass out or get sick. They don't think of alcohol as something that can kill you," Alyssa says. "The kids at our high school, right after Shelby died, were all shocked and kind of scared straight. But that didn't even last very long. Now most of them are drinking just like they did before. One of our friends was talking to me the other day about how wasted she got, how she was throwing up, and I just looked at her like, Didn't you learn anything from Shelby's death? Kids just don't get it. They need more information, and they need to hear it more often."
Debbie is also involved in other aspects of the teen binge-drinking issue. She lobbies for tougher underage-drinking and social-host laws. Last spring, she testified for the passage of AB 2486, a California bill seeking to hold adults civilly liable for damages if they knowingly furnish alcohol to underage drinkers in their homes. At the hearing, most - like State Senator Noreen Evans - expressed dismay. "I have to say, I always thought this was the law and I'm just shocked to find out it's not," Evans said, shaking her head. "It should have been the law all along." On August 30, 2010, the bill became state law. A companion amnesty bill - which provides criminal protection for minors who call 911 to assist an underage drinker in difficulty - was signed into law a month later.
As pleased as she is with these results, Debbie Allen's path as an activist has been a fraught one - not just because of the loss she's endured, but also because of the reception her actions have met with. "I've lost good friends as a result of the incident itself and the aftermath," she says, "parents of Shelby's friends - who were friends of mine - who have not provided the support we have asked for: agreement that parents should not allow kids to drink in their homes, or help with our efforts to change laws that provide immunity for parents who do."
This kind of collateral damage doesn't give Debbie even a split second of pause. Her mission is clear. "I've had people say, 'You've turned your whole life over to this issue; it must be very therapeutic for you,' " she says. "Well, it's not therapeutic. Every time I give a presentation, it's painful. My grief has not lessened. In some ways, it has grown as time has passed. No one's child should have to die on a cold bathroom floor while parents sleep warm in beds nearby. I'm determined to save kids' lives. Not my kid's. It's too late for my kid. Other people's kids. Your kid."