Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

News

January 17, 2013

Breathalyzer pilot put into effect

60 percent of students oppose alcohol breath test

Students drinking alcohol ahead of school-sanctioned events like dances might have trouble getting through the door after the School Committee supported a breath-testing plan.

The committee supported a short-term pilot of a new high school breathalyzer policy last week with a unanimous four-member vote. The proposal came from the School Council, which is made up of students, teachers, parents and administrators.

Under the policy, all students attending school dances will need to blow into a breathalyzer from four to six inches away in order to enter school dances, including the school’s prom later this year. If there are positive readings from two blows, the student will face discipline consistent with district policies that handle students who arrive to school drunk.

Principal Chris Lord said he’s “excited we are going to give this a try.”

While there isn’t a schedule of events confirmed where the breathalyzer will be used, Lord said breathalyzers will be at the school’s first dance this year — the Valentine’s Day dance in February. The school’s prom, held away from the high school in May, also will use the policy for all attendees, including guests.

Such policies are already in place in some other Massachusetts districts such as Belmont, Danvers, Hamilton-Wenham and Ipswich. In those communities, officials saw a complete reduction in student alcohol infractions after the implementation of the policy, according to Andover officials.

The proposal was originally brought before the School Committee in December as a way of combatting rising student-drinking problems, according to Lord. Parent and student leaders said they solicited input on the idea, but neither received written feedback addressing the policy.

Around 60 percent of students responding to a poll last week were against the pilot, according to Brian Wivell, School Committee student liaison and a student member of the School Council.

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