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Posted at 3:14 PM ET, 05/12/2010

Should Breathalyzers be used at proms?

By Valerie Strauss

With prom season upon us, more and more high schools across the country are turning to Breathalyzers or similar machines to test kids for alcohol consumption before they can enter the dance.

The real question is whether they have the desired effect.

School officials, obviously, see the devices as a way to stop kids from drinking before they come to prom. And at some schools, the students themselves choose to have all prom attendees tested. That’s what the students at Jefferson City High School in Missouri requested for this month’s prom, which was being held at a hotel for the first time.

Some folks say that a message of distrust is sent to kids when everyone is tested before they can dance and have some punch.

That’s what the school board in Bellows Falls, Vermont, decided when members voted against testing students for alcohol at Bellows Falls Union High School’s prom this month--and even banned having a Breathalyzer at the dance, according to the Rutland Herald.

It quoted senior Nadine Rowell of Saxtons River as saying that it was "incredibly insulting" for students to be treated "like criminals" by requiring a breath test at the prom.

Others note, though, that drinking is against the law for minors, and that underage drinking is not only a personal behavior issue but one of public safety when one of these drunken kids gets behind a wheel. Few object to metal detectors or body wands that check for weapons.

The one dissenting vote in Bellows Falls was Stephen Major, who said that while he had questions about whether mass testing of students was constitutional, he thought it was a matter of safety.

But perhaps the real question is whether testing everybody actually stops kids from drinking on prom night.

I’ve been asking dozens of adults and kids, and not one of them said they think it stops kids from drinking who are planning to do so. Do you think they are wrong? What are the schools in your area doing?


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By Valerie Strauss  | May 12, 2010; 3:14 PM ET
Categories:  High School  | Tags:  alcohol and proms, breathalyzers at dances, breathalyzers at proms, high school proms, proms and alcohol, should kids be tested for alchol, testing kids for alcohol, testing students for alcohol  
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They are still kids, and in a position to make a really bad choice. Use the device on every student going in, let everyone know in advance that you intend to. Great idea---saves lives---saves futures--

Posted by: mamoore1 | May 12, 2010 5:16 PM | Report abuse

Breathalyzers at proms, in my opinion, do nothing but encourage students to take drugs instead.

The solution should be creating safe environments, providing transportation, and not allowing students to attend prom unless they take a bus/limo/taxi. Schools, student councils, the state education agencies, etc. should all be putting money towards transportation services so that driving drunk is not an option!

Posted by: amacmannis | May 12, 2010 8:32 PM | Report abuse

Wait. You want my tax dollars to go for transporation to a prom? Better still, have the prom in the gym and have parents do the driving. Problem solved.

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Posted by: itkonlyyou56 | May 12, 2010 9:41 PM | Report abuse

Each year during Prom and Graduation season alcohol related traffic accidents and fatalities for teens rises. Similar linkages exist between underage drinking and high school sporting events. Lifeloc manufacturers and sells professional breathalyzers to Law Enforcement and increasingly to schools concerned with making events safer for students and to exercise their responsibility to parents to keep kids safe while under their care. Breathalyzers at school functions don't stop substance abuse just as alcohol and drug testing in the workplace doesn't. It does educate kids and parents on the dangers of alcohol, establish clear expectations about what is acceptable and what is not and help keep students safe while at school functions. How can this be a bad thing?

Posted by: breathtester | May 12, 2010 10:22 PM | Report abuse

Wouldn't it make more sense to check the students before they drive home at the *end* of the dance?

Posted by: floof | May 13, 2010 6:58 AM | Report abuse

Short answer: yes. I distinctly recall a conversation two classmates had in late may 1992, senior english class "By 8 o' clock all I wanted to do was get back to my hotel party and pop open a beer." Not to paint with a broad stroke but this guy barely graduated and his (wealthy) parents managed to get him into Randolph Macon. He had already been expelled from Pope Paul VI Catholic High.

Posted by: biffgrifftheoneandonly | May 13, 2010 8:09 AM | Report abuse

I am so glad I grew up in the 70s!!

Posted by: queenb3 | May 13, 2010 10:15 AM | Report abuse

Oh please. They should be doing drug tests as well. And also have a loyalty test to the US as well. Maybe be forced to recite the pledge forwards and backwards.

Kids these days.....


Posted by: cz_man | May 13, 2010 10:22 AM | Report abuse

By all means. They need urinalysis, abstinence pledges and results of a Republican purity test, too.

Posted by: areyousaying | May 13, 2010 10:23 AM | Report abuse

Why are American high schools in the business of running late-night couples' parties, anyway.

Once US high schools manage to graduate students who aren't consistently at the bottom of international acadmic rankings, maybe they can start branching out into these kinds of sybaritic sidelines. Until then, maybe they should just focus on teaching.

Posted by: kcx7 | May 13, 2010 11:30 AM | Report abuse

I'm assuming that if they fail the Breathalyzer that they will be turned away from the prom, correct? What do you think the kids will do then??? They just came from drinking - they got turned away because of drinking - they are now going to drink some more.

If they fail the Breathalyzer, the parents should be REQUIRED to come pick them up.

Posted by: Virginia10 | May 13, 2010 1:46 PM | Report abuse

Teaching children that they should not expect to have any right to privacy.

Welcome to the surveillance society.

Posted by: sage5 | May 13, 2010 2:52 PM | Report abuse

If you have a kid who might drink for prom, you have a kid who likely drinks at other times. Start paying attention EVERYDAY to your kids at all ages - not just for special occasions.

Another passing thought - I fondly remember my 1966 prom as a very special, romantic, dress-up , almost-an-adult affair at the Edgewater Beach Hotel's beautiful, tiered Marine Ballroom. We were expected to act like ladies and gentlemen - and DID! I am so sad for the teens who rush past all beauty and become jaded and crass thrill-seekers. They are throwing away moments in life they will never get back.

Posted by: bernadete | May 13, 2010 5:59 PM | Report abuse

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