Chesterton Tribune


CHS prom may feature breathalyzer this year

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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 too great.

“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 suspicion.

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 from parents.

He believes most of the parents will understand the perspective of the CHS administration.

“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.



Posted 3/15/2013