Singer, a social worker who sits on Montgomery County's restorative justice program Youth Aid Panel for teens cited for drinking, learned about the Good Samaritan law in a newsletter from State Rep. Greg Vitali (D., Delaware) in September.
Pennsylvania's Good Samaritan law is similar to medical-amnesty laws in such states as New York and New Jersey, and such laws are popular on college campuses across the country.
Meant to encourage partyers to call 911 if a friend who is under the influence needs medical attention, it exempts the underage caller from getting into trouble with the law if he or she also has been drinking. In Pennsylvania, the person who needs medical attention may still get cited for underage drinking; New Jersey's measure protects the sick person as well.
Sponsored primarily by State Sen. John Rafferty Jr. (R., Montgomery), the law passed in June 2011 as an amendment to an existing act that details underage-drinking offenses. Gov. Corbett signed the law in August.
Though a few college campuses, such as Susquehanna University, ran their own awareness campaigns, there were no public-service announcements on billboards, television, or radio.
After she discovered the Good Samaritan law, Singer discussed it with the YAC, a panel of students from eight area high schools that encourages open dialogue about teen issues, such as underage drinking, with parents, school administrators, and the community.
"One of the problems with [a party] situation is that everyone wants to do everything to avoid making the call," Lower Merion High School junior Hillary Hoffstein said.
Some YAC members said they had been in situations where they were hesitant to call parents or 911 if a friend appeared to have drunk too much.
First, the YAC persuaded Lower Merion and Harriton High Schools, and Agnes Irwin, Friends' Central, and Haverford Schools to administer a survey about the issue. After two months, 473 students had responded.
Harriton senior Arielle Herman said the survey pointed YAC to two barriers involving alcohol poisoning and the new law.
"If a kid is at a party, and their friend passes out, and they want to call the police or call 911 to save their friends, that could mean getting everyone else at the party in trouble, which is a big disincentive," Herman said. "Also, the person who needs the medical attention doesn't get immunity from the law."
Rafferty said issuing a citation for the ill individual is up to police on the scene.
"Our thoughts were that we wanted to promote the good behavior of the person who called and stayed with the individual in need," Rafferty said.
From the survey, the students were able to figure out what type of message they needed to get across to their peers. With little funding and free access to YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter, YAC members Haydn Hornstein-Platt, Grant Schiller, and Robbie Warshaw conceived a script for a video with the help of Lower Merion resident Art Levy, who has a background in marketing. Lower Merion students Adam Barr and Henry Grenier shot and edited the video.
More than a dozen students gathered June 1 at a house in Lower Merion to record the fictional scenario.
The video depicts a parentless house chock-full of teens drinking in the basement, carefree until a friend passes out and begins to vomit. The teens take him to the bathroom while discussing the law and who should dial 911.
A girl whips out her iPhone 4S to consult Siri: "My friend is drunk, like, really sick drunk. What should we do?"
"I hope you're not driving anywhere," Siri says without hesitation.
The video, which ends with a boy offering to make the call and instructing everyone at the party to leave to avoid citation, was released June 6 on YouTube. By the end of last week, the video had drawn more than 700 views.
Adults who viewed the four-minute video say they were moved by the students' actions on such a serious issue.
"It's easy to follow the crowd, put your head down, and hide," Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman said. "I credit their leadership and their initiative for being willing to address a tough issue like this head on."
Contact Josh Fernandez at firstname.lastname@example.org.