See you in September: Vote on school Breathalyzer policy delayed again

The Board of Education, which in April tabled action on Breathalyzer testing for school dances until this past Tuesday, again took no vote on the controversial alcohol-testing policy. The education board this time postponed a vote until Sept. 28.

The vote was 6-2, with the nay votes coming from Sue Dow and Pam Iacono.

In late April, school board member Tim Kery said he'd like students to be surveyed anonymously to see how they feel about the policy before the board votes on it. Other members subsequently agreed a survey certainly wouldn't hurt.

Last month, however, board members were told by school officials that it was too late in the school year to poll the teens. One thing that made a survey difficult before the end of the year is the fact that many Fairfield Ludlowe High School students are not in class because they have begun month-long internships in the community.

Under the proposed Breathalyzer policy, all students and their guests would be tested on entering a dance. Now, a test is administered only to those who appear to have been drinking.

Before the item was tabled once again Tuesday, board member John Mitola said he wouldn't vote without seeing results of a student survey.

"I think the survey's important," he said. "If it confirms that students won't drink because they know they'll be Breathalyzed, if it relieves some peer pressure, that's very important to me."

The board initially discussed tabling the Breathalyzer policy unitl Oct. 12, but subsequently revised the motion to table until Sept. 28 to make sure something is in place for the homecoming dances at both high schools in mid-October.

"Homecoming definitely is an event if you want to go and see what parents are talking about," said Sarah Finlaw, the Fairfield Ludlowe High School student liaison to the Board of Education. "You should go and see. It is very obvious students are drinking at homecoming."

Kery attended some dances last month -- and found some of the the dancing a little disconcerting -- but other than that said everyone was respectful and well-behaved. He did not see any of the drinking that some parents had described to him in e-mails. Kery said he would like the survey to at least ask students if they feel peer pressure to drink at the dances and if administrators conducting the tests would be an obstacle to trust.

BOE member Catherine Albin said if there are valid concerns about drinking at school dances, then perhaps the board should look into transportation to and from school dances by "parents, guardians or licensed drivers."

Some in the crowd, who appeared to be parents, snickered at the suggestion.

Albin told the Fairfield Citizen if parents want to make things safer for their children, then other things must be looked into besides Breathalyzers.

Nancy Billington, past president of the Ludlowe PTA, had her own suggestion for the board. She said both the headmaster of Ludlowe and the principal of Fairfield Warde High School are in favor of routine Breathalyzer testing so, "If you're going to survey the kids, survey the staff."