Board will wait to get student opinion on Breathalyzers
Vote on initiative could take place without student input
The Board of Education (BOE) -- on the advisement of Superintendent of Schools Ann Clark -- elected Tuesday night to put off conducting a student survey on Breathalyzer testing until the fall.
"I don't see the sense of urgency on this issue," agreed BOE member John Mitola. "It's not going to be implemented for the [Fairfield Warde High School] prom next weekend." It was also noted during the meeting that Fairfield Ludlowe's prom has already passed and the junior proms at the high schools took place last weekend.
"I certainly don't want to rush anything," said BOE Vice Chairman Pam Iacono, who helped create some of the survey questions.
Board members and school officials noted this is a tough time to get answers for a survey, as it is the end of the school year. Among other things, sports teams are involved in FCIAC and state competitions, there are finals and AP exams and approximately 200 seniors from Fairfield Ludlowe are employed outside of school walls with their month-long internships.
BOE member Perry Liu questioned why the survey was needed.
"I'll bet you they're all going to say they don't want it," he said.
Liu followed up by saying that if student input is sought, and no one is in favor of testing of every person entering a dance, then ignoring them and going forward with the testing would set a bad precedent "for our leadership."
"We are the adults in this situation," said Liu, "And I think we need to make the decision."
Tim Kery and Iacono attended the junior proms over the weekend, and Kery said everyone was well-behaved, polite and respectful.
"I'm not inclined to support the Breathalyzer testing," he said. But, he conceded, "I think [the students] should have some minimal say."
Iacono said she wants to hear more student comment. A suggestion by a student liaison to the board to test students upon leaving a dance was an interesting idea, Iacono said.
A survey could also provide answers to other questions, Iacono said. For example, she has heard that testing at a dance is an "easy out" from giving in to peer pressure to drinking. "I'd like to know from the survey if that's true," she said.
Attending the junior proms last weekend actually made Iacono rethink the need for Breathalyzers.
"I was inclined to support this but after going to the junior proms I'm very hesitant now," she said.
Catherine Albin, current BOE member and former chairman, said a survey has to be carefully constructed. She said the draft was created on very short notice and said there were "leading questions" that should probably be removed from the survey.
While some decried the need for a survey -- citing a Regional Youth/Adult Substance Abuse Project (RYASAP) report, which determined there was a drinking problem in Fairfield, and had polled students as part of the research -- others felt another survey was only right.
Current BOE Chairman Sue Brand told the board, "If we're trying to determine if we have underage drinking as a problem, we do. It's in the RYASAP report."
"There were questions posed to the students. We know there's a drinking problem. They told us already," she said.
Brand is in favor of testing of every student and his or her guest entering a dance.
"It's documented that it's an effective deterrent," she said.
Brand noted that the board last month tabled a decision on the proposed Breathalyzer policy to June 8. However, some members want to see the results of a student survey before voting on the policy.
"I'm not going to vote on the item without all the information we're seeking," Iacono said.