Why Breathalyzer Testing is Needed at School Dances


Taylor Foster, Assistant Editor

With AP tests occupying the minds of many upperclassmen these past two weeks, prom this Saturday has been able to sneak up quickly and, with the reminder in Falcon Formation today, many students are wondering how La Salle’s relatively new addition of breathalyzer testing at dances will affect their ability to have a fun night at prom.

Back in February, when La Salle’s Vice Principal for Student Life, Mr. Brian Devine, first informed La Salle students that the school would be instituting the use of breathalyzers at school dances to discourage underage drinking, many students were wondering why such action was necessary. Personally, I don’t feel the need to criticize anyone who chooses to drink while underage, but I do believe if students are going to drink, they need to do so in a safe environment, and I don’t believe a night of dancing and driving constitutes such an environment.

This Saturday will be the second time La Salle will be using breathalyzer screening before a school dance, and for those of you who did not attend the Sadie Hawkins dance, the guidelines are fairly simple.

When students are in line to enter the dance they will be told to choose a random card from a deck, and depending on which card they choose they will either be told to enter the dance or take a breathalyzer test. If the students taking the breathalyzer test pass, they will be allowed to freely enter the dance. However, if a student does not pass, they will be asked to take a second breathalyzer test, and if they fail once again, their parents will be called to pick them up and the student will be asked to leave. Any student failing a second breathalyzer test will also face “severe disciplinary consequences” from the school.

In addition, once students are in the dance, the teachers and chaperones will also be on the watch for students who are intoxicated as the result of drinking before or during the dance, and will test any student that they see dancing who they believe could be drunk.

Many students have responded to this process asking why both forms of testing were necessary. With the initial breathalyzer test being based on random selection, some students explained, they did not believe it would be effective enough to actually apprehend intoxicated students; which suggests that the screening process should be more extensive. However, some other students felt that if the chaperones would be watching for drunk students during the dance like they have in the past, the screening test before entering the dance shouldn’t be necessary at all.  

Mr. Devine, as well as La Salle’s student council, thoughtfully considered these concerns when first creating the guidelines and responded, explaining that the goal of both having a test before the dance and chaperones watching, is to make screening very random. Mr. Devine explained, saying, “part of what we want to make sure we are not doing is targeting students. I think students were feeling like we were singling students out or we were making assumptions about specific students, and we weren’t, but I think students were starting to feel that way.”

I believe that based on these statements alone, any student should be able to see how the use of breathalyzers is simply to ensure student safety and that the La Salle administrative staff and student council have tried to implement the use of breathalyzers in an simultaneously effective and non-invasive way.

However, being a high school senior, I can also recognize the concerns students have that they may not be willing to voice themselves.

  • Many students probably feel like drinking is not a big deal and that getting a little buzz at a dance would not be very harmful because they think that by the end of dance they will be sober.
  • Some students may even be thinking as long as they are not drunk, driving slightly intoxicated will not inhibit their ability to drive; even though in reality it does.
  • Many students probably believe they are responsible enough to know how much alcohol they can handle and want to be able to prove their actions are not as dangerous as adults claim they are.

Ultimately, however, these concerns are somewhat invalid because every student who has ever learned anything about underage drinking knows that it is not an insignificant matter. Drinking can be a big deal because it can be physically harmful to a person’s body and inhibit a person’s ability to make positive choices and their ability to drive.

The point is, that while students are not unintelligent, they may feel that underage drinking is nothing to be too concerned about, even though they also know that drinking can be dangerous. However, I don’t believe that simply knowing that something is dangerous is preventative enough to keep students from underage drinking. Because of this, I think the school made a good choice in deciding to institute breathalyzers, because for the sake of safety, there does need to be an effective deterrent to keep students from drinking.

Creative Commons photo source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/christopherbarnette/18634713500/