News - School Board to consider breathalyzer policy

The Bandon Western World- by Amy Moss Strong

Along with the what-to-wear and who-will-be-there jitters when the Bandon High School winter courtwarming dance is held Feb. 13, students will face a new kind of nervousness: What if I don’t pass the test?

The “test” is the proposed BHS breathalyzer policy, expected to be approved by the School Board at its next meeting Feb. 9.

Students and school administrators have been working on the “Creating Awareness and Keeping Kids Safe” policy for at least a year.

“It started because we had so many problems in the past with dances and kids coming drunk,” said BHS senior Emily Brooks, associated student body representative to the School Board.

Brooks said some students were even coming to dances sober, but bringing in alcohol and drinking during the function. A few dances were canceled last year as a result.

Brooks presented the idea at a School Board meeting two months ago after it was discussed during student council. She formally submitted the actual policy on behalf of the council for consideration this month. Principal Gaye Knapp and Athletic Director and Vice Principal James Freitag urged the student council to follow through with the policy that was discussed last year after a dance was canceled. Brooks said she called other schools in the county to find out if they had such policies. Myrtle Point has a policy and further research revealed several schools in the Portland area had adopted policies similar to what BHS was looking to implement.

The student council then modeled Bandon’s policy after one from Parkrose High School in Portland, but found similar ones at Lincoln High School, also in Portland, as well as at Cottage Grove High School in Cottage Grove and Henley High School in Klamath Falls.

“These are big schools,” Brooks said.

“Parkrose had a problem with drinking at dances and they instituted the policy and it has worked,” she added. “And just as many kids are attending the dances, maybe more, because parents now are OK about sending their kids.”

Brooks said when the policy was first introduced to the Bandon student body, some students were upset. But as they were given more information about how it will work, they began to accept it.

“A lot of students now are for it,” she said. Cost to the district is minimal because the school already owns two breathalyzers, Knapp said. The approximate 25-cent cost to buy the breathalyzer tips will be taken out of proceeds from the dances.

“I think it’s a step in the right direction to make sure they have their heads on straight,” said board member Francis Stadelman. “And I think the board is probably on the same page as me.”

Knapp said dance rules now prohibit students from leaving and returning. But some students have come to dances already inebriated, while others have “started acting strange” during the dance and it was later discovered they smuggled in alcohol.

The new policy indicates a passive breathalyzer test will be required before a student is allowed into the dance or other special activity. The breathalyzer test will not be used for admittance to sporting events. Tests will be administered by a school official. (To read the complete policy, see sidebar.)

“I think the positive thing about it is we won’t have to worry about dances getting canceled and kids getting MIPs and things like that,” Brooks said. “Obviously, what we’re doing now isn’t working.

“It is a treat for them to come and if they don’t want to be breathalyzed, they don’t have to come,” she added.