UPDATE: At 6 a.m. Thursday, we attached the text of the full policy adopted by the Board of Education as a PDF. Look to the right of this article and click the PDF link to open the document.
Anybody who attends prom as a student or a guest will have to submit to a breathalyzer test to determine if he or she had been drinking alcohol.
If the student or guest fails the test, or refuses to take it, he or she will not be permitted into the dance.
That decision was made Tuesday night when the Board of Education voted 6-0 in favor of the plan, which would be a pilot program for this year, the school board said.
“In light of recent arrests at the high school, and accidents and concerns about alcohol, I think it’s a good idea,” said board Chairwoman Paula Guillet.
The idea was brought forth by interim Superintendent of Schools John Reed, Ph. D., who said the use of breathalyzers at proms is commonplace in the state and in other parts of the country. Seymour, Newtown and other neighboring towns have the same policy.
“I don’t think anyone is going to refuse to come to the prom because of this,” Reed said. “And if they do, that’s probably a good thing. …This is not an ‘I gotcha.’ We have no desire to catch anyone. The desire is to get the kids to make the decision to avoid alcohol.”
The prom will be held on May 25 at the Aqua Turf in the Plantsville section of Southington. Breathalyzers will also be administered at an alcohol and drug free post prom party that is organized annually by the Oxford High School Booster Club; it's held at the high school.
There was much discussion before the vote about topics such as the legality of these devices, how they would be administered, who would administer them, whether anyone is trained to administer them and whether the school board is protected legally from someone who may file a lawsuit because their child was not allowed into the prom.
Reed said the devices will be non-intrusive breathalyzers, which do not take a person’s blood alcohol level but simply determine whether someone has been drinking. He said they were used for 15 years during his tenure as superintendent of Newtown Public Schools.
“In that time, no problems about this came across my desk,” he said, adding that the procedure has gone smoothly in other school districts across the state. He said principals and superintendents meet on a monthly basis, and he’s yet to hear of an issue with the use of breathalyzers at school functions.
Board member William Neary, an attorney, said he was worried that the board could open itself up to liability, especially if the person who administers the test is not certified.
Reed, who said he’s taking full responsibility for the use of the breathalyzers because it was his idea, said the testing procedure “does not need to meet any great standard of law.”
“And there are those out there who say we could be liable if there is an issue (involving alcohol) because we could have done something and we didn’t,” Reed said.
Neary ultimately agreed that the goal of the breathalyzer is good.
Board member Ted Oczkowski, a high school administrator in another school district, said he’s been to many school events where breathalyzers have been used.
“I’ve administered them, and they’ve never been wrong,” he said. He added that the device is very sensitive and that if someone put a shot of alcohol 10 feet away, the device would pick it up.
Board members Oczkowski, Neary, Guillet, Michael Macchio, Amy Cote and Stephen Brown - the only members in attendance - voted in favor of the breathalyzer policy.
Reed said he will consult with other school districts and other police departments that have used breathalyzers and Oxford will follow their procedures.