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[Update] Breathalyzers to be Administered at Oxford High School Prom [Poll]

The school board votes 6-0 in favor of the 'pilot program.'

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. 

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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.

Joe Blow April 25, 2012 at 02:30 PM
More gubbment intervention. Welcome to the police state of Amerika.
pablo April 25, 2012 at 03:26 PM
let the kids drink and make silly decisions...PROM 2012 #YOLO
CMG April 25, 2012 at 03:29 PM
It's really no big deal...if you aren't planning on doing anything wrong, then who cares? I would rather my kid be safe than killed by a stupid drunk driver.
MOM April 25, 2012 at 03:35 PM
It's about time, thank you Oxford Board of Education!
KB April 25, 2012 at 04:05 PM
What about the kids high on drugs! That seems more of the issue at the school right now.
Otown April 25, 2012 at 04:42 PM
Child kicks off metal detector due to bringing gun to school - Child gets arrested by police. Child shows up drunk(underage drinking) at prom - Child not allowed in prom. Lol! Be consistent O-town! You now have a responsibility to report information to authorities and/or parents! If not then do not implement this...
Jennifer April 25, 2012 at 04:53 PM
Great idea. Way to go OBOE and Dr. Reed!
Will Wilkin April 25, 2012 at 07:43 PM
Part 1 Breathalyzers for all entrants to the prom? The rationale is saving lives…which is always the rationale for abandoning our most cherished principles to win a battle that loses a war. What principles are on the chopping block here? Let's start with the Constitutional prohibition against unwarranted searches, and the near-universally recognized presumption of innocence. The reason the prom breathalyzers are so scary is they prepare the kids to forget the Constitution and limited government powers they were taught in Civics class. Entering the prom should awaken thoughtful and civic-minded students to the terrible reality that the Bill of Rights and Constitutional government in the USA is a myth. From the Cold War to the Drug War to the Terror War, there has been throughout living memory in this country a sense of emergency that has eroded and contradicted the Constitution. Welcome to the police state you actually live in, kids.
Will Wilkin April 25, 2012 at 07:44 PM
Part 2 Here are the words of Dr. Paul Craig Roberts, a former editor of the Wall Street Journal and a former Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury: http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/04/20/unplugging-americans-from-the-matrix/ EXCERT: The demise of the War Powers Act and the Geneva Conventions, and the asserted power of the executive to imprison without trial or charges or to assassinate any American whom the executive thinks might be a “national-security threat” are indicative of a total police state masquerading as an accountable democracy.  In America six-year old little girls who misbehave in school are handcuffed, jailed, and charged with felonies." END EXCERPT Here is the link Mr. Roberts provides on the policing of schoolchildren: http://lewrockwell.com/rep3/young-children-brutalized-by-police.html Kids might as well get used to it, since the adult country is actually much less free (or democratic) than the shiny veneer of elections and Civics classes made it appear. The candidates are pre-selected by the system of corporate financing of elections, and the government routinely exercises unlimited powers it does not legally have.
Will Wilkin April 25, 2012 at 07:45 PM
Part 3 Cold War Roots of Lawless Government: So numerous, but here is an introduction to what happened. Its relevant because the cold war undermining of constitutional govt created precedents and made it "normal", preparing us for what has become limitless police powers in daily life . Heady stuff but worth the patience if you care if government actually has to follow law and Constitution:
Will Wilkin April 25, 2012 at 07:45 PM
Part 4 http://yalelawjournal.org/the-yale-law-journal-pocket-part/executive-power/the-national-security-constitution-and-the-bush-administration/ EXCERPT: Put bluntly, officials and state institutions can change the Constitution without asking for permission. This is exactly what is suggested by the critiques of the use of presidential power to defend national security…. There is substantial agreement as to what was troublesome in the constitutional record of the Bush presidency. The three most salient departures from the status quo were: (1) indefinite detention without due process inside the United States and its possessions; (2) authorization of torture and other harsh interrogation techniques; and (3) authorization of National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance outside of the framework set by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). In turn, these initiatives shared a common characteristic: they could not have happened unless it was assumed that the President had the unilateral power under the Constitution to authorize the violation of federal law and judicial doctrine, even in the absence of a prior finding that the law in question was unconstitutional....
Will Wilkin April 25, 2012 at 07:46 PM
Part 5 …the Administration took the country rapidly into a world of torture, surveillance contrary to law, and legal black holes such as the detainee facility at Guantánamo Bay. ….President Bush and Vice President Cheney invoked Article II constitutional powers and, consistent with executive practice in the Cold War, deliberately avoided claiming authority to wage war based on statutes such as the AUMF. ….how President Bush altered the constitutional order in such a way as to make these policies possible in the first place. I suggest we require a theory that is attuned to the Cold War constitutional order, ...and is able to explain the problematic character of the constitutional order that has resulted—one prone to violating its own precepts in constitutional crises. (My emphasis --W.) END EXCERPT That was the imperial side of cold war roots of govt defiance of Constitution. Think of the McCarthy-led attacks on law-abiding citizens suspected of political dissent for the domestic side of the cold war roots of today's police state.
Will Wilkin April 25, 2012 at 07:46 PM
Part 6 Drug War effects on Constitution: The USA has the highest per capita incarceration rate in the world. When a public health issue is redefined as crime, it corrupts rule of law as it makes the drugs and the streets more dangerous. The Bill of Rights: A Casualty of the War on Drugs? By Eric E. Sterling, http://www.cjpf.org/drug/billofrights EXCERPT: It is my thesis that among the most tragic casualties in the "war on drugs" are our constitutional liberties. To start, let's go through the Bill of Rights in the Constitution one-by-one to see how they have been affected by the war on drugs…. END EXCERPT Click the link above to read Mr. Sterling's examination of the Drug War erosion of each of the 10 Amendments comprising the Bill of Rights (and 13, 14, 15 & 19).
Will Wilkin April 25, 2012 at 07:47 PM
Part 7 Terror War effects on Constitution: Already covered in the Cold War roots of Bush's defiance of law and Constitution (continued even more brazenly and openly by the Obama Administration). Our Presidents now make wars and issue assassination orders without consulting Congress or law --that is what dictators do. The terrorists win when we abandon our Constitution in panic. I'll quote Mr Roberts once more for his concise description of the REAL national emergency we face, the one of abandoning our Constitutional system of enumerated (limited) powers of government, presumption of innocence and rule of law: http://www.counterpunch.org/2011/01/28/the-dissolving-constitution/ EXCERPT: …the police state destroying protections against searches, the First Amendment, habeas corpus, due process, and the right to an attorney, with grand jury subpoenas issued to war protesters, with lists of American citizens to be assassinated, with ongoing war crimes committed in wars based in lies and deceptions, with the executive branch’s seizure of the power to violate statutory laws against torture and spying without warrants…. END EXCERPT
Will Wilkin April 25, 2012 at 07:47 PM
Part 8 Conclusions? Get used to giving up your rights (and democracy), or think about how they might be restored. The BOE abandonment of the Constitutional prohibition of unwarranted searches and the universal presumption of innocence only shows how long rule of law has been disregarded by leadership at all levels of government, from presidents and Congress to the BOE. Constitution has become just another quaint old irrelevant Magna Carta. Might as well save the paper and stop printing Civics textbooks. Finis.
Dad in Oxford April 26, 2012 at 12:52 AM
Going to the Prom is not a right, it is a privilege! Playing on a sports team in high school is not a right, it is a privilege. These are extracurricular activities and to participate, there are rules. The rule for attending the Prom is passing a breathalyzer and I applaud the BOE for implementing this rule. I would hope that a Police Officer will be administering the test so that if a student does not pass, there is the extra step of making sure that student, if they drove to the prom, is not legally drunk and not able to get behind the wheel of their car to leave. Exactly how this will be implemented needs to be thought out and clearly defined, but I agree 100% with this action.
Bernard April 26, 2012 at 01:07 AM
Nice treatise but your argument fails on so many points. This is a small point in a much larger stand against government intrusion. There are limits to our Constitutional rights when there is a legitimate and compelling state interest at stake. That students have the choice to attend the prom and are not required to submit in this way takes away the "unreasonable" argument. You don't get to waltz into a courtroom without a search as there is a compelling state interest to ensure safety and security in courtrooms. Unfortunately, folks have recently become enamored with judging (most incorrectly) what is and is not Constitutional. Far too many also seem to assert rights based on self-interest rather than case history and law. That being said, while I agree that this action is reasonable and not a violation of students rights ( which have their limits as these are minors), your sentiment is appropriate and I wish more folks would at least question their government (but only when their party is in control).
CMG April 26, 2012 at 02:51 PM
Well said Dad!!!! And too agree that a Police Officer should be administering the test. I am all for keeping the kids safe at whatever cost. I would hate to have to sue the town for failing to keep my kid safe. And I do have to agree with Otown....if an underage student comes to the prom drunk, they should not just be allowed to go home with mommy and daddy. If they drove to the prom drunk, they broke the law and should be arrested. That's exactly what would happen if they got pulled over by the police. It sounds harsh, but again, it's all about keeping not only our own children safe, but other people too.
John M. Joy April 26, 2012 at 05:29 PM
"I would hate to have to sue the town for failing to keep my kid safe." This speaks volumes.
Joe Blow April 26, 2012 at 06:48 PM
John Joy, I think you are reading it like I am. Sue happy people who either a) are not responsible for THEIR children b) let's give a lesson in how to push the blame onto somebody else for our stupidity Since when does the town become responsible for somebodies actions?
Will Wilkin April 26, 2012 at 07:09 PM
Cindy, I would hate to have to sue you for your use of lawsuit threats to panic the town into adopting a policy that requires of my child, for the "privilege" of attending his prom dance, to be automatically denied the presumption of innocence by school officials and to therefore submit to a police-administered unwarranted and thus unConstitutional search. The aggravating factors are the undermining of his civics education and indeed of all of our Constitutional government and the principles taught as basic to our form of government.
Citizen X April 27, 2012 at 01:34 AM
John you lost me with the parenthesized comment at the end, but by & large I agree with your post. You're saying you wish people would question their government only when the party they belong to is in control?
Abe April 27, 2012 at 03:02 AM
Will, you are absolutely correct. It is yet another step down the slippery slope to losing all rights. I object to having the breathalyzer test at the door for that reason. Having a Police Officer at the prom and the after party who administers the breathalyzer test or sobriety test to anyone who behaves in a manner that warrants suspicion and arrests those who fail, does not violate anyone's civil rights. "Ignore your rights, and they'll go away."
Joe Blow April 27, 2012 at 03:44 AM
Will, I take back everything bad I may have said about you. You have redeemed yourself to the highest degree.
Will Wilkin April 27, 2012 at 04:31 AM
Its okay Joe I never get mad. I know half those lies about me aren't even true.
Kelly Donohue April 27, 2012 at 09:07 PM
I highly doubt you would win a lawsuit here. Just like getting the wand at a sporting event and DUI check points, it would fall under the special needs section of the 4th ammendment. That being said, if you don't like it, don't go. It is voluntary, you actually have to pay to go, just like going into a restaurant that does not allow smoking. Also, you do not have an expectation of privacy because when you buy your ticket you are fully aware of ALL the rules, including the breathalyzer.
Bernard May 02, 2012 at 02:18 AM
Kelly, that was an impressive post. Lawyer? Either way, its nice to hear more than just a cherry-picked, out of context reference to our Constitution and some recognition that you can't just read the Constitution without considering all the decisions in cases that essentially help to make up the document now and going forward. A little knowledge is only a little.
Will Wilkin May 02, 2012 at 01:10 PM
Hi Kelly, 1) How many of our daily activities are mere "privileges" not protected by Constitutional limits on govt power? For example, would your argument justify breathalyzers or dogs or searches at the grocery store door, or at the church door, or at a baseball stadium or public park gate? If any of those establishments invited the police to search all entrants, would that too be legal simply because we do not have the right to grocery shop or visit a public park or other public or private place of commerce or leisure? Exactly where do Constitutional rights and limits apply? 2) Whatever the exact legal precedents or principles used to justify govt power beyond its constitutional authority (such as mandatory breathalyzers, i.e. search) in situations of "privilege", do you think that it is good civic education of our students to subject them to an automatic denial of presumption of innocence and submission to an unconstitutional search?

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