According to recent articles in the Providence Journal and other local papers, the use of breathalyzers at school functions is becoming more common in Rhode Island. The questions remains, however, whether breathalyzers will ever be used at East Providence High School functions.
According to msnbc.com, there are approximately 75,000 deaths a year due to alcohol. Throughout the country, forty percent of seniors in high school have consumed alcohol in the past month and twenty-two percent of seniors “binge drink” which is when one drinks excessively with the intent to get drunk. In response, schools such as Barrington High School and Tiverton High School require students to pass a breathalyzer test before entering school dances. In West Warwick, recently, a controversy arose when parents were not informed that their children would have to pass a breathalyzer test in order to enter a school dance.
While EPHS does not use breathalyzers at dances, there has been discussion about ways to keep problems out of school events. Alex Kanelos, Dean of Students at EPHS believes that the priority must be to keep kids safe.
“We do everything in our power to communicate the seriousness of drinking. People die as a result of underage drinking. The school is very proactive before activities and we are consistently reminding kids in assemblies about the dangers. We have a zero-tolerance policy here."
Because of the schools zero-tolerance policy of underage drinking, school officials take measures to curve the use of alcohol by minors.
"At school dances, we are vigilant during check-ins and if a student appears to have been drinking, he or she is immediately brought to an administrator. Parents are then called to pick the student up," said Mr. Kanelos.
It is not certain whether or not these actions are enough to send the message to kids that drinking is not acceptable at school functions. Breathalyzers might help, but such a policy would need to be created by the School Committee.
“That decision would be a district issue," said Mr. Kanelos. "If the district feels it is necessary or feels it will help, then it needs to be communicated clearly and consistently beforehand. The test would also have to be given by people who are trained in using breathalyzers. It would need to be implemented correctly.”
If the trend throughout Rhode Island is any indication, then breathalyzer tests may be part of school dances at East Providence High School in the years to come.