High School Breathalyzers Debate Reemerges This School Year

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Tis the season for high school homecoming dances, football games and ensuing breathalyzer controversies.

Back in April, Total DUI detailed how breathalyzers had dates at proms throughout the country as school officials were using these devices as a means to curb underage DUIs, and now we're seeing similar developments this fall.

On September 14th, Carmel High School (the Indiana high school that produced former Duke basketball star and current Portland Trailblazers rookie Josh McRoberts) implemented a policy requiring all students to pass a breathalyzer test in order to be admitted into the school's homecoming football game. For two years, the school has required breathalyzer testing prior to prom and homecoming dances, and has now extended the practice to under the Friday night lights.

School administrators have said that breathalyzers are being used not because of an increase in alcohol use among students but rather because of the increased availability of these testing units. Carmel Principal John Williams elaborated that the breathalyzers are also being used to create safer environments for students.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has expressed their concerns about Carmel's testing procedures because the school involves the police. More specifically, police officers stand nearby as the school has performed breath tests of students in the past; thus creating the impression, at least in the ACLU's eyes, that a criminal search is going on. The ACLU has also asked why adults are not going to be tested prior to entering the football games.

Carmel High School has said that students who test positive for alcohol or drugs via the breath tests will not be arrested but rather counseled or disciplined. With all this considered, Williams has said that the high school will continue to review its breath testing policy.

New Jersey's Pequannock Township High School will be shortly requiring students to take breathalyzer tests for extracurricular activities, including field trips. On October 1st, the Pequannock Board of Education unanimously voted to give random breathalyzer tests to students at high school dances, concerts, proms and other social events.

Some students at the school have said that they are fine with the breathalyzer tests, as they have nothing to hide. Others have expressed concern that the school is going a bit overboard. Board of Education President Megan Hollberg was quoted in an ABC Eyewitness News story as saying that the board wanted to do everything possible to help students say "no" to drinking when tempted to do so.

The school is to inform parents of the breathalyzers in letters in the next month. The district still needs to buy the breathalyzer machines, which are expected to be used within a month.

While not requiring students to take breathalyzers, Geneva High School in Geneva, Illinois has changed its policy on any student who is under the influence of alcohol or illegal substances at the homecoming dance. What once constituted a three-day, out-of-school suspension will now warrant a one-year ban from attending any school dances for any student who is found to be under the influence. The school will continue to rely on its traditional routine of determining whether a student may or may not be drunk, by simply observing and smelling them.


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