Archive for Friday, September 30, 2005

No breathalyzers for Homecoming

Alcohol testing devices not ready

September 30, 2005


Lawrence high school students will not be subjected to Breathalyzer tests before Saturday's homecoming dances.

"We won't be doing Breathalyzers," said Rick Gammill, head of a school district task force charged with developing an alcohol-testing policy.

Gammill said he doubted the district would have the equipment in place before the start of the spring semester.

"We're still working on the policy," he said. "We want to make certain it's a good policy: one that does what we want it to and one that's enforceable."

But because of recent concerns about students being intoxicated at dances, students will be subjected to additional scrutiny at the homecoming bashes on Saturday.

"We'll have four uniformed police officers instead of the usual two," said Mike Hill, an assistant principal at Free State High School.

School officials ordered a review of the district's alcohol-testing policy earlier this month after reports of widespread drunkenness at Free State High School's start-of-the-fall-semester Firestarter Dance.

Lawrence High School senior Marissa Ballard, 17, left, and sophomore Tomisa Bowens, 16, attach a parrot to a coconut tree for the float sponsored by the F.Y.I. Leadership Club. Various student groups built floats for today's homecoming parade. Although concern has arisen about students coming to dances drunk, Lawrence high school students will not have to take Breathalyzer tests before this weekend's high school homecoming dances.

Lawrence High School senior Marissa Ballard, 17, left, and sophomore Tomisa Bowens, 16, attach a parrot to a coconut tree for the float sponsored by the F.Y.I. Leadership Club. Various student groups built floats for today's homecoming parade. Although concern has arisen about students coming to dances drunk, Lawrence high school students will not have to take Breathalyzer tests before this weekend's high school homecoming dances.

Afterward, three Free State students were suspended for being drunk at the dance.

Three weeks later, four Lawrence High School senior boys were suspended for being intoxicated at a Sept. 15 football game in Shawnee Mission.

"The students had alcohol in their bodies; they were Breathalyzed by the Overland Park police," said LHS Assistant Principal Matt Brungardt.

In keeping with the district's current policy, the students were suspended for three days. Their parents were notified.

The students were given the option of having their suspensions reduced to one day if they attended counseling sessions for alcohol and drug abuse.

Students caught a second time are subject to a five-day suspension, which, if they agree to counseling, may be reduced to three days.

Three of the four suspended students opted for the one-day suspension. "It was their first offense," Brungardt said.

The fourth student, he said, refused.

"It was his second offense," Brungardt said.

For a third offense, students are subject to a mandatory five-day suspension and a possible suspension for the remainder of the school year.

'Good exchange'

How increased scrutiny will affect dance attendance remains to be seen.

"We're probably going to lose some kids who are upset they can't drink," said Marti McDonald, an LHS senior and a member of the school's student council. "But at the same time, we're going to gain others. I think it'll be a good exchange."

The dances are sponsored by each high school's student council.

Several student council members disputed reports that hundreds of students had been drinking or were drunk at the Firestarter Dance.

"When I heard that, I was shocked," said Free State senior Blake Thames, student council treasurer. "I was there, and I didn't see anything like that."

"I think what happened was that some people looked drunk because it's a dance - you're dancing, you're sweating, your hair is plastered on the side of your head, you're acting crazy," said Zack Morgenstern, senior class president at Free State. "That's what you do at a dance, but it doesn't mean you're drunk."

Jane Rock, faculty adviser to Free State's student council, said she, too, found some of the claims difficult to believe.

"I worked the dance, and I would never say two-thirds of the people there were drinking - like it said in the Journal-World," Rock said. "I worked the door, I met every person who came in, I walked through the crowd, and I didn't see anything like what was in the paper."

After the dance, Rock said she and others on the clean-up crew found no evidence of drinking. "No cans, no bottles," she said. "Nothing like that."

But other students at the dance had differing recollections, which were partly the basis for the Journal-World's initial article.

Students and other sources told the newspaper that there had been widespread drinking, that one student had vomited in a trash can and that drinking was common at the high school dances.

School officials, acting on those reports, announced the new, stricter vigilance measures.

Lawrence, Free State parades set for today

Lawrence and Free State high schools' fall homecoming parades will be today, each beginning at 2:30 p.m. The Free State procession will begin just south of Bob Billings Parkway and Wakarusa and proceed north on Wakarusa to the school. Lawrence High School's parade will begin at 11th and Massachusetts streets and head south on Massachusetts to 19th St., where it will turn west to the LHS parking lot. The LHS parade will include a stop at 17th and Massachusetts, during which the band will perform for residents at Babcock Place. Each school's homecoming dance will be from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday.


Zack 12 years, 8 months ago

First of all, allow me to thank everyone reading this article and potentially commenting on it for showing concern in this matter. My name is Zack Morgenstern, and I am the senior class president at Lawrence Free State. My quote in this article, along with those of my friends, were taken out of context to the point that we sound almost disconcerned with the problem. After a regional conference that we hosted, we were taken into a room, along with the members of LHS's student council, to give an interview. The reporter claimed to want to "get our side of the story out" and as you can probably tell, this "goal" was not achieved. We asked that he include in his article some of the ideas we have about controlling the drinking problem, and as far as I can tell he only re-stated the same issue which we have all been hearing about. Had we known that the article would merely be reiterating how terrible of students we are, we would certainly not have agreed to the interview. Let me assure you all that as a student council, and an administration, we are working as hard as we can to find a solution without allowing this sort of behavior to continue, and also without the students boycotting the entire dance. If anybody reading this article would like to share ideas on how to fix the situation, or would like to contact me for any reason, feel free to e-mail. My address is . Thank you for your attention in this matter.

neopolss 12 years, 8 months ago

Students, if you are reading this article, BOYCOTT this dance. You should consider this breathalyzer crap to be an insult. They are not trying to protect you, they are simply seeking control over you. Show them your ability to work together by staying at home for this dance.

tell_it_like_it_is 12 years, 8 months ago

Kids: I too would boycott this dance. They are violating your rights and you shouldn't let that happen without taking a stand. Where do your parents stand in all this? As a parent I would be outraged.

Ceallach 12 years, 8 months ago

Responsible students always seem to be hindered by the actions of their less responsible peers. I can understand why you do not want to boycott the dance. For some of you it will be the last Homecoming Dance of your high school days. The dance should be great fun, not great stress.

As budding young adults you do face difficult decisions. It is my hope that you will carefully weigh you decision to attend or not attend, as well as your decision regarding alcohol. Having done so, have a good time, no matter where you are that night. Alcohol is not a major requirement to have fun, neither is an organized dance.

As you become more responsible for your decisions you need to consider the consequences that can result from attending as well as from drinking. If you attend their will apparently be additional police presence and if drinking you risk suspension among other things. It is illegal for you to drink at this time of your life, and consequences may follow.

Best wishes to both schools for all of your homecoming activities.

Greg Yother 12 years, 8 months ago

It would seems that if there will be four police officers specifically looking for people exhibiting drunk behavior, it would be fairly easy to identify and remove those people. I have to admit that I find it hard to believe that there were hordes of stumbling drunk people and only a few were identified. From the admittedly limited information that I have access to (a couple of LJW articles) it sounds more like a couple of groups of friends were drunk and one person puked in a trash can. Sounds pretty much what it was like when I was in high school in the late 80's. Is this really a major conundrum? Of course there could have been a lot more drunk folks who didn't get caught because they were keeping it low profile. In that case, we have to ask the question: how far do we expect the school to go to crack down on people who have been drinking but are acting relatively normal? Have a reasonable amount of surveillance, impose reasonably stiff penalties, and publicize concerns when there are suspicions of a larger amount of unpunished violations, so parents (where of course the real responsibility lies) are aware and can take appropriate action, precautions, etc. Sounds like all three are taking place. What else can we really expect the school to do? In my opinion, drug testing at the door is approaching the realm of the ridiculous.

Confrontation 12 years, 8 months ago

These kids are on school property, so I don't really think they have privacy rights that are being violated. Should they be allowed alone in dark rooms at the school, too? We wouldn't want to invade their privacy. If they are intoxicated at other public/private properties, then they can be arrested just the same. Let the drunk kids stay home with their useless parents. Let those with common sense have fun at the dance.

hottruckinmama 12 years, 8 months ago

i'm glad the youngest of my kids are almost out of school. forget being worried about drunk kids i worry more about the nutty school administration and the nutty religous parents.

OldEnuf2BYurDad 12 years, 8 months ago

Did anyone notice the "On the Street" comment by Ms. Sims on the right side of this page? Ms. Sims thinks that by making it so that 18 year olds can buy beer, there will be FEWER 17 year olds drinking? Clearly Ms. Sims has had too much to drink herself.

I have to disagree with some of these posts. Once again, we see a difficult social problem being tackled by our schools because American parents are generally ABSENT and PERMISSIVE. Something needs to be done, but because the parents of our high school kids are uninvolved, the school is forced to consider unpopular "blunt object" approaches that no one really likes. But what do we expect? Someone has to do something, and since parents today are too busy with [fill in name of self-centered activity], no one is leading these kids to make better choices.

HotMomma says that the problem is "religious parents". Did the article say anything about religion? Why does religion have to be called out? HotMomma probably thinks that Christians also at fault for the potholes in Lawrence, and male pattern baldness. Show some tolerance.

Those of you who posted compliants: what are YOUR solutions? I think you object because you don't really have a problem with kids getting drunk. It's time for adults today to starting thinking like adults. The sexual promiscuity, drinking and drugs you were involved with as teens was UNHEALTHY. If you don't see it that way, then you cannot really lead your kids away from repeating the same kind of behavior. Too many parents want their kids to repeat their own mistakes. These poor kids today are parent-less.

kujeeper 12 years, 8 months ago

This is typical of the USD 497 administration's unspoken policy "if we cannot control every action of our students, we just won't allow anything to happen" I remember my high school days at the very end of the 1990's and it was the same then, we drank, the kids drink now, they lie on those surveys though...more than 49% of the school drank...try 89%.

OldEnuf2BYurDad 12 years, 8 months ago

But Jeeper, what is the "correct" action?

1) Wait for things to get better on their own?

2) Do nothing and send the message that drinking is OK and that kids who don't want to be around the drunks need to just feel uncomfortable or go elsewhere?

3) Create policies that have no teeth, so that the drunk kids don't really have to change their behavior?

Once again, for those of you who are griping: what is YOUR SOLUTION?

Steve Jacob 12 years, 8 months ago

My question is why now? We all went to school dances, any there always been lots of drinking. Why is it bigger now then in the 70's and 80's?

Now I hope the kids don't drink and drive, now thats different.

glockenspiel 12 years, 8 months ago

It doesn't take a breathalyzer, nor a genius to tell if some one has been drinking.

Schools can't allow kids to come to dances drunk. There is nothing to argue there.

Kids, don't boycott the dance. Dances were the only times I ever had the balls to ask someone on a date. Wait until after the dance to get plastered.

kujeeper 12 years, 8 months ago

The cold hard fact that no one can come to terms with is... there is no solution. This is not a problem that is worse here because Lawrence is a college town. I went to college with people from the smallest rural communities to large cities like Dallas and Chicago...they all drank in high school. Our parents did it, I am sure their's did too if they could afford it then.

Using the arguement of saying the kids should be subject to a Breathalyzer because it is public property is a weak arguement, Lawrence lets the homeless run loose in this town as drunk and as high as the homeless wish to be...the parks they harass people in are public property.

Kids will drink, parents care less and less, alcohol is easy to get, and there is no perfect solution for it. Sorry everyone but that's the truth.

calijayhawk 12 years, 8 months ago

If you really want to do something about this - Show up at the dance, refuse to take a breathalyzer, and sue the school, school district, and Rick Gamill when they refuse to let you in.

I'm sure the ACLU or some lawyer would jump all over this and help stop the fascism that is pervading our schools.

I think it's ironic that the people in charge now, those who grew up in the 60s have become the very people that they used to fight against.

How about alcohol and drug tests for teachers? They're the ones who should be tested, but then you wouldn't have anyone to teach.

CharlesinCharge 12 years, 8 months ago

First let me make it clear that I am totally against the use of breathalyzers at these events. The rights of everyone should not be violated because of the few that are violating the rules.

However, if there is a problem with kids coming to the events drunk I think action should be taken. Aren't there laws against underage drinking and public drunkenness? I am sure there are. So, why aren't these violators prosecuted instead of being threatened with one or two days supspension? Furthermore, where are they getting the alcohol? It might amaze you that sometimes parents are the ones supplying it.

This reminds me of the news stories you hear about fraternities where drinking and hazing has gotten out of hand. You here about the trouble they get in, but not once does anyone mention that what they are doing is ILLEGAL and often nothing is done about it.

Greg Yother 12 years, 8 months ago

OldEnuf: If I am understanding you correctly, you are saying that the responsibility does lie with the parents, but they are not doing their job, therefore "someone has to do something" i.e. the school needs to partially take over the role of the parents (at least partially) and take pretty drastic measures that are "unpopular" ones that "nobody likes."

My point is that it IS NOT the school's responsibility to be the parents, and they can only be expected to take reasonable measures (the ones listed in my previous post) to enforce the rules. In response to your comment "somebody has to do something"...well, actually, no one REALLY HAS to do ANYTHING. The parents SHOULD be doing something, but if they don't do it, their child will have to face the consequences when caught by the reasonable practices put into place by the school to enforce the rules. Subjecting all students to drug tests at the door in my opinion is ridiculous and transcends the boundaries of due diligence that I expect from the schools. Now then, you do make a point that the consequences may not be harsh enough. Now you're talkin'. I'm with you there.


So they are on school property, so yes they have the right to not go if they don't like the drug test at the door. That doesn't mean it isn't completely inappropriate. By your logic, why don't we subject them all to full body cavity searches? Hey! It's school property!! Should we allow them alone in dark rooms? Uuuhhhh, yeah. The student yearbook staff has a darkroom; shall we have a uniformed officer in the darkroom at all times if a couple of kids had a make-out session in there? Ridiculous! Isn't it much more appropriate to try to enforce against the undesirable activity itself rather than try to restrict them from any situation that could be taken advantage of? Some will get away with breaking the rules no matter what you do short of binding and gagging them. I agree wholehearted when you say let the drunks stay home and let those with common sense have fun at the dance. But what would really happen is we would be letting the drunks stay home and subjecting the kids with common sense to a ridiculous drug test at the door.

raven 12 years, 8 months ago

I don't see how this is a violation of their rights. If a student attends a school function after drinking alcohol they are breaking the school rules-not to mention the law. If they are not drinking-they should have no problem taking a breathalyzer.

Greg Yother 12 years, 8 months ago

I personally do not think it is a violation of anybody's rights; I do think it is rediculous for the schools to drug test before dances. It think it is rediculous for the school to be expected to go that far. I think you can be reasonably effective while not making it suck for everyone.

I do not store illegal drugs in my house, but I'm NOT OK with someone rifling through my personal stuff because some choose to break the law.

bankboy119 12 years, 8 months ago

Cali....I think the ACLU would be for this. They're the worst group in the US.

calijayhawk 12 years, 8 months ago

Agreed, that's the only time you'll probably find me saying anything positive about the ACLU.

Here's a better solution - instead of drinking before you go to the dance. Sneak a flask or pint in and drink at the dance, after they give you the breathalyzer.

I think the people behind this policy have their hearts in the right place, but are taking the wrong approach to address the problem.

The main argument in support of breatalyzing at the dances is to avoid drunk driving. Instead, why not offer a service such as KU's safe ride to take students to/from the dance.

calijayhawk 12 years, 8 months ago

Here's a way to blow the administration's minds - before entering the dance everyone should rinse their mouth out with Scope or Listerine in the parking lot. Everyone will fail the breathalyzer and be denied entry to the dance for wanting to have fresh breath.

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