SAD 67 students who show signs of intoxication at school will be subject to Breathalyzer testing under a new school policy, school officials said Wednesday.
SAD 67 Superintendent Michael Marcinkus said students would not be tested during school unless alcohol use is suspected. Students will be randomly tested, however, at after-school events, he said. A lottery of students in attendance at such events will be conducted to determine who gets tested.
“We want the word to get out that we don’t want you to come in to a random event intoxicated,” Marcinkus said Wednesday. “If they don’t know what they are going to draw, they won’t come into the events inebriated, and if they refuse the test, they won’t be allowed to stay at the event.”
School officials expect to start holding drawings and testing at after-school events, such as dances and sporting contests, soon, Marcinkus said.
The policy was not implemented because of any unusual problems in the district, according to school officials.
The idea, Marcinkus said, is to protect and improve student and public safety and health while lessening the enormous civil liability schools can face for alcohol-related incidents and accidents that occur on school grounds.
A breath analyzer is a device used for estimating blood-alcohol content from a person’s breath, according to dictionary.com. “Breathalyzer” is the brand name for a particular breath analyzer that is commonly used as the term for such devices, which are now made by a variety of companies.
The SAD 67 board of directors voted 9-2 on Nov. 19 to approve the policy with members David Edwards and John Trask opposed.
Edwards said Wednesday that he liked the idea of school officials having and properly using breath analyzers, but he questioned the appropriateness of random testing on students.
He said he also opposed passing the policy before the Maine Civil Liberties Union, which is reviewing the policy, has had a chance to issue its report, which is expected on Dec. 10.
“Why pass it now in haste when we will get a free legal review in a month,” Edwards said Wednesday. “Should we not wait until we hear of it?”
Trask, a detective with the Penobscot County Sheriff’s Office, declined to comment during working hours.
SAD 67 serves Chester, Lincoln and Mattawamkeag. The policy states that the board “authorizes trained administrators to administer Breathalyzer tests to students while on school property.
“The purpose of this policy is to authorize the use of the Breathalyzer for cause when reasonable suspicion exists,” the policy says. “The policy also authorizes the use of the Breathalyzer for random testing at after-school functions and school sponsored events held away from school.”
A copy of the policy is available at www.sad67.k12.me.us.
Students found to be intoxicated may face suspension or expulsion, Marcinkus said.
Reasonable suspicion of intoxication is defined as “conduct including, but not limited to, physical impairment, unusual behavior, bloodshot or glassy eyes, odor of alcoholic beverages or on the basis of any other behavior or information that provides a reasonable suspicion that the student has consumed alcohol or is in possession of alcohol.”
School systems commonly use analyzers to test for intoxication, Marcinkus said. In 2006, officials at Lewiston High School gained statewide media attention when they announced that they would be using one at a prom.