Archive for Friday, September 9, 2005

Dances to include alcohol testing

Policy adopted to curb underage drinking by students

September 9, 2005


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."


lunacydetector 12 years, 8 months ago

do they have metal detectors at the doors, too?

if someone was suspected of being drunk, have a cop test the kid.

who's paying for these breathalyzer machines anyway?

cristBwithU 12 years, 8 months ago

This is beyond the limits... Why are we paying for breath tests??? Ten years ago they would have been kicked out of the dance and not allowed to attend any extra functions for the year. Where's the parents responsibility in all of this? Is the district raising and policing our kids?

absolutelyridiculous 12 years, 8 months ago

Hmmm...NOW it's higher on the radar for Principal Joe Snyder? Interesting how the Superintendent has to step up in this case. Sounds like weak leadership in the school. I heard that Joe Snyder didn't want law enforcement at the school dances. Why? Well, I suppose some of Lawrence finest citizens had kids who were showing up drunk or drugged. Wake up parents! Wake up Randy! Will it take someone getting killed to get action done! Sheeesh!

lma1979 12 years, 8 months ago

I don't understand what the big issue is. I'm sure this is not a new problem and surprised that Lawrence hasn't dealt with it before now. I went to a 4A highschool in north central kansas that instituted "breath tests" approx eight years ago. All students were greeted at the school dance by parents and the principal who administered the tests. People stopped showing up drunk and did not start showing up high.

onehotmomma 12 years, 8 months ago

It seems to me that parents want to be friends to their children and have the school officials (or anyone else for that matter) be the bad guys. It is not surprising in the least that it has come to this point, we have excuses for all kinds of bad behavior for every kind of adult and child. How can we expect our kids to behave properly when adults have no clue how to be adults?

Adolescent behavior extends to the mid to late 20's for alot of people. Parents, grow up and be a parent, children need boundaries and rules. School teachers and admin - set rules and enforce them. Both sets are going to get alot of grumbling from the students - ignore it.

compmd 12 years, 8 months ago

I graduated from a rather elite high school on Chicago's North Shore. At parties, if someone was caught being disorderly, they were quickly dealt with. Usually there were one or two police officers in attendance, but they were dressed to fit in with the party as to not seem imposing. If someone was drunk, BAM, minor in possession/consumption charges and parents are called for a pick up. I remember watching sobbing kids being dragged away by furious parents. For some, it was sobbing for disappointing their family. For others, it was sobbing because they got caught. All this stepped up at the graduation party, where everyone was frisked upon entry, and if you stepped out, you couldn't come back in. If you didn't want to follow the rules, fine, you didn't have to go to the party.
Those people who made it past the frisking usually ended up being escorted out of the party by tuxedo-wearing police. No, we didn't have metal detectors at the door or breathalyzers or anything like that. We just had high expectations for students.
Unfortunately, the quality of students has gone down lately, and the level of disappointment in these teenagers has gone up.

onehotmomma 12 years, 8 months ago

compmd, well stated.

Unfortunately, not only has the quality of student gone down, so has the quality of parents. I am amazed at the excuses parents give for their children's behavior and attitude, and their own behavior and attitude. Personal responsibility is rapidly becoming extinct, and the next generation will pay the highest price.

momof3 12 years, 8 months ago

How quickly the parents are being blamed for some of the students showing up to dances under the influence. Do you think these kids are drinking at home? NO! Do they have older friends and siblings that buy it for them? Yes. I believe if the parents knew that their children specifically were going to dances drunk, then the parents would do something. But since teenagers find ways of covering it, or don't come home drunk, then parents will never know.
From reading the above posts, it sounds like none of you are parents. The schools do need to crack down on students who attend dances (but I think breathalizers are going too far). If the student is out of line, or if you think they are under the influence, then send them home with the parents. Parents will discipline their children, if they are able to catch it.
And were any of you teenagers? I think you were. And I don't think you were angels, either. This kind of behavior has been going on for years. It does need to be stopped, but don't be so quick to think the parents don't care. The parents probably don't know - yet.

jedifunk 12 years, 8 months ago

I go to Free State, and this is completely stupid. Instead of going to the dance drunk, people will just get drunk and go somewhere else. At a Free State dance, literally three-quarters of the people there are wasted. Actually, it's what makes it fun, but that's beside the point...people will stop coming either because they're offended that they have to get breathalyzed while they're innocent, or because they don't want to get caught drinking. A lot of teenagers get drunk every weekend anyway. This stops nothing.

cristBwithU 12 years, 8 months ago

Yes, we are parents. And yes, we were once teenagers. We are actively involved in the raising of our children. I don't believe some one giving a "breath test" to my child would stop her from drinking, if she were drinking. What would stop her would be social embarassment, a little humiliation, with a side of nothing to do for a month, or more./.

Nikki May 12 years, 8 months ago

I really agree with Jedifunk. I mean, teens are always going to drink. No, not all, but several. I am positive this isn't going to stop drunk teens, just they won't be at school. (Oh, and I'd be willing to bet there are kids that go drunk or stoned to class too).

jedifunk 12 years, 8 months ago

To punkrockmom:

You would definitely be right about that last sentence.

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