Monday, April 25, 2005

They Can't Make The Scene If They Can't Pass The Machine

What does a Boston-area high school do when kids keep showing up to school-sponsored events drunk and disorderly? CNN is reporting that at Westwood High School, (website here) they make them blow into the machine:

It was getting so few teachers at Westwood High School in suburban Boston wanted to chaperone school dances. There were drunken quarrels and dramas. At one school event, a student was rushed to the hospital with alcohol poisoning.

So, in recent weeks, she and fellow administrators adopted a policy that a growing number of schools are using to deter drinking at after-hours events: They're now testing students who enter school dances, including the upcoming prom, with Breathalyzers.

Some teens complain that the testing policies are intrusive and misdirected. They include 18-year-old Jason Speakman, who thinks officials' efforts would be more effective if they tested students as they left events to drive home, or increased road patrols.

It seems the idea of having a Breathalyzer at the door of school events has been around for sometime:

At North Central High School in Indianapolis, an early adopter of alcohol testing, that's been the rule for 10 years. And Principal C.E. Quandt has never had a student test positive -- proof, he says, that students are getting the point.

"You can't protect kids 24-7, but you can make the experience they have here a positive one," Quandt says. "We're not going to 'wink-wink' the issue. There is a right and wrong."

Not surprisingly, many students are opposed to at-the-door Breathalyzer tests:

"Kids getting into cars stumbling drunk -- THAT'S a problem," says Speakman, a high school senior in Barrington, Rhode Island, where school officials are considering alcohol tests."

Without a Breathalyzer ... you have to be lucky or the kid has to be stupid," says Rich Catrambone, a social worker at Newton South High School in Newton, Massachusetts, where testing is done on a case-by-case basis. "This takes the guess work out of it."

Last fall, officials at the school expanded testing to a night football game -- a move that caught many students off guard and resulted in nine getting suspended.

That outcome prompted student newspaper editor Chiraag Mundhe to write an editorial suggesting that giving students advance warning would do more to deter underage drinking.

"It really didn't curb the problem; it just punished kids," says Mundhe, a 17-year-old senior.

Interestingly, most of the students that oppose the policy don't seem too interested in boycotting the events.
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