Reacting to concerns that teens are coming to school dances drunk, Lawrence educators will now require Breathalyzer tests at the gatherings.
"I'm putting a stop to this" drunkenness, Lawrence school Supt. Randy Weseman said. "I'm just not in the mood for this kind of behavior."
The Breathalyzer tests should be in place by November, said Rick Gammill, the district's special operations director and head of a task force working to stop students from attending school dances under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
The district is upping enforcement efforts after an August dance at Free State High. Three students were caught and suspended for showing up at the Firestarter dance under the influence of alcohol.
"This has been an ongoing problem," Free State High Principal Joe Snyder said. "It raised on the radar screen higher this time."
The task force will work out the details of the policy change. Lawrence High will have at least two more dances before the policy changes, which are expected to take effect in November. A Homecoming dance is set for Oct. 1, and a Halloween dance is set for Oct. 22. Free State High will have at least one dance before the policy change.
Weseman gave one possible scenario once the new policy is in place: Students will take a "passive" Breathalyzer, which checks air exhaled in front of the mouth. Those who fail the passive test would then take an "active" Breathalyzer, similar to that used by law enforcement.
Students would be tested before school dances and the prom, Lawrence High Principal Steve Nilhas said.
"This is a good-faith effort on the part of the district to address an issue that concerns us all," Nilhas said.
Officials said they didn't know yet whether there would be testing before events other than dances.
Educators in Topeka, DeSoto, Baldwin and Blue Valley districts said Thursday they did not require students to take Breathalyzers before dances.
"That's pretty progressive," said Alvie Cater, spokesman for the DeSoto district.
Reactions from students were mixed.
"Everybody is still going to come out and have a good time," said Aisha Breckenridge, a Lawrence High senior.
But others predicted dance attendance would wane.
"People will probably stop coming to dances," said Megan Glotzbach, a Lawrence High junior. "Some people might be offended because they don't (drink) at all."
Breathalyzers won't stop kids from drinking, said Anna Allen, a Free State High junior.
"Kids will always find a way to do what they want to do," she said.
Allen said a drop in attendance at dances would mean the schools would raise less money supporting the schools.
Some parents welcomed news of the Breathalyzers.
"I think it's appropriate," said Travis Paustian, father of two Lawrence High students. "They're underage and not supposed to be drinking, so they shouldn't be ending up at the dances drunk."
Weseman said the issue of underage drinking and drug use was not the schools' responsibility alone.
"The question is, where are they getting this, and where are they doing it before they get into the dance?" he said. "There's some enabling going on out there. ... That's an issue for the community to address."