Students who attend the Chesterton High School prom on May 4 and the CHS
Senior Banquet on May 8 may need more than just a ticket to get in.
CHS Principal James Goetz asked the Duneland School Board at its meeting
Thursday to give school administrators their opinion on administering
breathalyzer tests to all students before admittance to those events.
“We have an issue, and we are looking for your guidance,” he told the board.
Goetz said he and his fellow administrators have been “mulling the idea” of
such tests due to the behavior of a few students at this past year’s
homecoming dance when they arrived after having consumed alcohol.
Because safety reached a level of critical concern, the administration ended
up canceling the planned CHS Valentine’s Day in February, Goetz said, and
may do the same for the prom and senior banquet if the risk factors become
“I’m more willing to take the heat of canceling the dance than to put those
students at risk,” Goetz said.
Some of the issues have been students from Duneland while some have been
kids from other school districts who attend the dances with their dates, he
said. Goetz said he was not sure how wide spread student use of alcohol is
either before or at dances.
Goetz said Duneland Director of Safety and Security Steve Rohe has
coordinated with the Porter Police Department to use its breathalyzers if
the school ends up deciding to administer the tests.
Rohe told the Chesterton Tribune on Friday that if the plan goes
through, the school administration will choose staff and chaperones to give
the tests at the prom.
There would be ten stations set up as ten breathalyzers will be loaned to
the school by Porter PD, Rohe said. It will be similar to the model used by
Lake Central Schools, he said.
According to the plan as it is now, if someone tests positive for alcohol
use on an initial breathalyzer test, they will be given a second test by
Rohe, school resource officer Sgt. Randy Komisarcik and off-duty Chesterton
Police officers. If the individual tests positive a second time, the school
will issue a disciplinary action against him or her. Rohe said they would
also be charged with minor consumption of alcohol as a status offense. The
charge would then be forwarded to the Porter County Juvenile Probation
Department but the individual would not be taken into custody, Rohe said.
Instead, they would be released to their parent or guardian.
If the offender came from another school district, Duneland administrators
would alert their respective districts who then can decide on their own
disciplinary actions, Rohe said.
Only the school would have the authority to administer the tests on school
grounds, not police officers, both Rohe and Goetz said. Schools have parents
sign forms at student registration that say their child can be searched by
school administrators. Rohe said that based on the law, schools have the
right to breathalyze all the students or individuals on reasonable
Goetz said if breathalyzing is decided upon, the school will have prom
tickets printed stating that students will have to pass a breathalyzer test
in order to attend, which should send a warning for potential violators.
Goetz said that even with the breathalyzers, it is still possible that it
will not completely deter students from trying to sneak alcohol in at the
prom and banquet. Police will be present throughout the events to keep a
look out for offenders, he said.
“We can’t stop everything but we are going to try to prevent whatever we can
prevent,” said Goetz.
Goetz said Thursday’s school board meeting was the first time school
officials have spoken in public about the plan. CHS’ student publication
The Sandscript did run a full length story a few days ago interviewing
students and administrators which can be viewed on the Sandscript’s website,
but as of this morning Goetz said he has not heard any negative reaction
He believes most of the parents will understand the perspective of the CHS
“This is an intelligent community. They know we are concerned for the safety
and protection of our kids,” said Goetz.
As for the school board, no policy action was taken on Thursday. Board
president Mike Trout said the board will take the matter under advisement
once it holds further discussion with staff and hopes to have an opinion
ready by the next board meeting on April 10.
Goetz said the preparations for the prom and senior banquet would not be
disturbed if the board renders its input by April 10.
“We certainly value the input of the board. They are pretty smart people.
They are not going to just give an answer without putting some thought
behind it,” said Goetz.
Breathalyzer tests before dances have become more prevalent in many school
districts over the last few years, Goetz said.
As of now, CHS is not considering requiring tests at events other than the
prom and the banquet, Goetz said.