Beginning this school year, students at Shawnee Mission high schools will be subject to Breathalyzer tests if a district police officer has probable cause to suspect alcohol use.

The new policy, approved last month by the Shawnee Mission USD 512 Board of Education, allows any district police officer at the district’s four high schools with probable cause to administer a Breathalyzer test to students during school or school-sponsored events.

The policy was first brought to the board at the July 13 meeting for a first read-through.

Superintendent Gene Johnson said the policy had been a topic of discussion among high school principals and administration for many years.

“Well, obviously we are extremely interested in the safety of our students and there are times where students may make poor decisions about the consumption of alcohol,” Johnson said. “There would be times where the use of a Breathalyzer would help up in getting support for that student as quickly as possible. It has been a point of discussion for a long time. I supervised the principals at the high schools and middle schools for more than 10 years, and occasionally the topic came up. We would discuss it and each time we talked about it and decided not to move forward with a policy. But last year it just got to the point we thought a policy would be appropriate.”

The policy states that a Breathalyzer can be given only by Shawnee Mission District police officers on school property. The policy defines school property to include but not be limited to, “school buildings, buses, facilities, athletic fields, all parking areas rented and/or leased by the school district, or other facilities or premises utilized for school sponsored activities.”

The policy states probable cause must be met before the test can be administered.

Probable cause can be satisfied by “conduct including, but not limited to, physical impairment, unusual behavior, blood shot eyes, odor of alcoholic beverages or on the basis of any other behavior or information that provides probable cause that the student has consumed alcohol or is in possession of alcohol.”

Johnson said with the board’s approval of the policy the district would look into purchasing the Breathalyzer equipment before the beginning of the school year. The Breathalyzers cost approximately $400 each, he said.

District officers will also be required to train in the use of the equipment before administering any tests.