Thursday, September 28, 2023

Breathalyzer Test Precedes Winter Wonderland

By Jack Fichter

Principal Joseph Castellucci said the board of education gave “their blessing” to using the tests. The school has a policy covering testing for those suspected of being under the influence of alcohol or drugs, he said.
“What I was asking them to do, instead of randomly testing kids, is test every kid that walked into a dance, because of fear of what kids are doing before they come in, and some concerns from past dances,” Castellucci said. “I decided we really need to do something to send the kids a message that we were seriously looking for that type of behavior.”
The Breathalyzer tests will now be administered at all dances, including the Senior Prom, Castelluci said.
Parents are called when a student flunks a Breathalyzer test and the student is taken to the hospital for a blood alcohol test.
The student will receive a “harsh suspension and probably police involvement,” said Castellucci.
The school owns three Breathalyzers. The tests are administered by the school nurse and two assistant principals, he said.
A passive test is used, asking students to speak into the Breathalyzer. If they test positive, they are asked to blow in the device.
A false reading may come from a student having used mouthwash 10 to 15 minutes before using the Breathalyzer, Castellucci said.  Thus the student is asked to wait 15 minutes and retake the test.
No one at the Winter Wonderland Dance was found to have been drinking, said Castellucci. He said students were very cooperative.
 The Breathalyzer has been used at other dances randomly and on students who are suspected to be under the influence during the school day, he said.
Students have tested positive but mostly at dances, he said.
At a Jan 26 board of education meeting, Board President Richard Hooyman asked student board member Wesley Laudeman the effect of the Breathalyzer at the dance. She said a lot fewer students attended than normal.
Castellucci told the Herald 300 students had signed up to attend the Winter Wonderland Dance and he understood all were present and each  “tested clean.” Before students could buy a ticket to the dance, they had to pick up a parental permission slip that explained the Breathalyzer policy, he said.
Breathalyzer tests in schools are a national trend with some schools considering their use at other events such as football games. Castelluci said that was not currently planned for regional “but it is possible.”
“It’s like a sobriety checkpoint for kids, and we know sobriety checkpoints work” said Teresa Stevens, state executive director of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).
She said the Breathalyzer test would act as a deterrent to teen drinking.
“It works because it lets the kids know the school is serious about it and I hope the penalties and follow up are as severe as their policy allows,” said Stevens.
She said underage drinking has to be attacked in much the same way as drunk driving, with deterrents, enforcement, education both to children and parents, and broad community support.  
Stevens said alcohol kills more youths than all illicit drugs combined. She said teen drinking is unhealthy, illegal, extremely dangerous, and very pervasive. 
Robert Jackson, a former regional school board member and ex-mayor of West Cape May, said the Breathalyzer tests were a good idea.
“I think teachers should volunteer to take the Breathalyzer too,” he said. “You lead by example.”
Contact Fichter at: or call 886-8600 ext. 30

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