High Schools Using Breathalyzers Becoming More Usual
By: Mary Ann Pekara
When it comes to making sure high school students follow the straight and narrow path, teachers and school administrators are always looking for creative and, more importantly, effective ways to reach their students about the devastating consequences of certain types of behavior.
Of course, drunk driving is one of the most notorious issues facing young people, and through education programs and other incentives, schools are trying to reach young people as early as possible to teach them the dangers of DUI.
Lately, it's been normal for high school officials to administer breath tests with a breathalyzer to students leaving from high school social events. For some schools, such as Seymour High School in Connecticut, this practice is enforced at the largest event of the year, the spring prom.
Though some parents are intrigued by concerns of privacy that might arise, most are more interested in safety, and the threat of a drunk student on the road after prom is enough to cause almost universal support for the plan. High school officials there say that they will only use a breathalyzer to test students who appear to be intoxicated.
Other schools are also taking a proactive approach, though the level of usage seems to vary widely. The Pequannock School District in Pequannock, New Jersey, for example, uses a breathalyzer at all school social events, which includes dances. They see their device as not only a practical tool to identify any level of blood alcohol content in possible DUI offenders before they get on the road, but also as a visual and public deterrent to drinking.
To avoid any issues concerning student privacy, all students who wish to attend a school social event must sign a contract that states that they agree to submit to a potential breathalyzer test at the event, or they will not be allowed to attend.
In a more extreme case, Enrico Fermi High School in Enfield, Connecticut has started a policy that not only provides for breathalyzers to be used at social events, but even possibly during the school day, if the administrator feels the situation requires it.
But the results have been similar in almost all cases. Student drinking has fallen dramatically, to the point where the few high schools that have started implementing the breath test have any instances of drunk students at high school functions.
School officials at all these schools attribute DUI education on the effectiveness of breath tests as well as the relative cheap price of breathalyzers to its success in their school environments. Though breathalyzers aren't 100% accurate in all cases, their use as a deterrent for underage drinkers in front of their friends makes them a tremendous educational and behavioral tool to get the message out about the dangers of drinking and driving.