News - Barrington High School students mixed on mandatory breath test proposal - Catarina Cowden

BARRINGTON — During the past few weeks talk about the proposed mandatory breathalyzer policy filled the hallways of Barrington High School, many students questioning whether it was fair or not.

A large number of students interviewed, including Barrington High School senior Meg Bellamy, believed that student attendance at high school dances would be affected if a mandatory breathalyzer policy was implemented.

“We will probably see a drop in the number of people who attend dances. But obviously there was a problem at the last dance that needs to be fixed,” she said, referring to the December 2008 dance where four students were reportedly removed from the dance because they were intoxicated.

Caroline Burke, senior class president at Barrington High School, agreed.

“I’m not sure that breathalyzing everyone is the right option but I think something needs to change. Kids aren’t being safe,” she said.

Another senior, Ryan Cundy, thinks that a mandatory breath test is an invasion of privacy.

“They are trying to avoid controversy by making it mandatory for everyone. But still, I don’t like it. It’s like search and seizure without probable cause,” he said.

When asked if she would still attend a high school dance where students were required to blow into a breathalyzer before entering the building, sophomore Kerry Milazzo was hesitant, “It depends how they are doing these breathalizers. If they are testing everyone as you walk in, the line is going to be backed up. I'm not going to go to a dance where you have to wait in line for 20 minutes just to get in.”

While some students think this policy is unfair, especially for those who go to the dances sober, there was a general consensus that some type of change was needed.

“It is a message to students that you can still have fun at school events without alcohol,” said Kelly Muldoon.

A look back

In late December, Barrington Police Chief John LaCross discussed his intentions to speak with school officials regarding a new, mandatory breathalyzer test at high school dances.

Earlier that month, four students were removed from a dance at the high school after they were discovered to be extremely intoxicated. Chief LaCross said at least one of the students should have been sent to the hospital.

He said his proposed policy — which would call for a breath test screening for all students at the entrance to the high school dance — would be a more constitutional approach and would also create a safer environment at the school dances. He said the mandatory tests are already used in a number of different states, including Massachusetts, Connecticut and New York.

A few weeks after the chief went public with the proposed policy, the Rhode Island chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union filed a letter with Barrington School Department officials urging them to stick with their current policy.

Last week two residents went public with their online petition opposing the implementation of a mandatory breath-test.