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Do Breathalyzers at School Events Curb Teen Drinking?

Several years ago, school administrators in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, made a decision to curb teen drinking at school dances and sporting events. They decided to use of handheld alcohol detection devices — or breathalyzers. Students caught drinking would face severe penalties.

Breathalyzers At School

It was a step that administrators felt was necessary. Chagrin Falls High School has been dealing with alcohol-related incidents for several years .

“Eveyone agreed we needed to address the widespread use of alcohol at school functions,” said Stephen Thompson, Chagrin Falls’ school superintendent.  “We are so fearful of all the terrible things that can happen as a result of student drinking. Fortunately, our school community has risen to the challenge. We have created new school policies on alcohol.”

Thompson explained that two new policies were introduced at Chagrin Falls High School at the start of this school year. First, school personnel will administer handheld alcohol detection devices (or breathalyzers) to all attendees at school dances. In addition, they would also test those suspected of using alcohol at school sporting events. In addition, the school strengthened its penalties for student drinking. First offenders would receive a 10-day school suspension and referral to police custody. The policy recommends expulsion from school for second offenders.

Rolling Out The School Alcohol Policy

After developing the policy, school administrators then held meetings with teachers, parents, student leaders and finally, the entire student body. Administrators explained the new guidelines to the school community. And this strategy resulted in support for the new policies. In addition, kids support these policies “because the school communicated clearly and administered uniformly,” says Thompson. “Attendance at the past three school dances has increased. And most importantly, Breathalyzer tests have revealed absolutely no positive tests for alcohol use.” Contrast this result with student estimates that 40-60 percent of students were using alcohol at school dances in the past.

Chagrin Falls’ leadership bravely spearheaded a “no alcohol” campaign. And with the support of parents, teachers and students, the community has ultimately accomplished its goal.

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