Shall we dance? Breathe into this first

Grafton High School Principal James Pignatoro is considering mandatory Breathalyzer tests at school dances, according to this story in the T&G (I’m glad someone can attend School Committee — I was running around between Planning Board and the Grafton Farmers Market Monday night).

There are now 43 schools in Massachusetts that use an alcohol breath test at many school functions. Of that number, 31 test when they are suspicious of a specific student. Twelve schools test everyone who attends a school function.

Mr. Pignataro’s recommendation is that Grafton tests all students who want to attend homecoming, semi-formal and junior/senior prom.

There have apparently been “several alcohol-related problems” at dances. The stringer reports the School Committee appeared to be in favor of the suggestion.

I could potificate here, but instead I’m going to fondly remember the time when my editor allowed me to buy a great deal of beer and wine, which I then served to a selected group of co-workers and their friends in the presence of two State Troopers, who periodically administered Breathalyzer tests throughout the night.  I didn’t drink — I was not only reporting, I was the designated driver — but watching one of the ad reps proceed to hit on a bemused Trooper as she became more and more intoxicated was totally worth it.

The point of the story? It only took a couple beers or two glasses of wine to get over the legal limit, and most of the adults in the room not only believed they weren’t intoxicated (despite failing field sobriety tests as well) but admitted they had driven in similar states.

Thoughts on alcohol tests at dances?

Edited to add this video, which was not shot in Grafton:


19 thoughts on “Shall we dance? Breathe into this first

  1. I think it’s a good idea. Kids are not supposed to be drinking, period! School function, friends houses. Interesting enough though, when this breathalizer is administered & students are found to be drinking, it is not reported to police. Even when there is a police there on duty. Does the officer turn a blind eye? What if they are repeat offenders? Same goes for drugs. I attended an open house at the police station. A detective there said they police aren’t always brought in where there are drugs found in the school.

    What do you think of police involvement in the schools when laws are broken?

  2. I’m one of those nutty people who have never even inhaled — my entire illicit substance experience can be summed up in this sentence: “Never borrow a stamp from a Deadhead.” I was never especially interested in alcohol in high school, either.

    I think the police should be involved when they confiscate drugs at school. I think they should be involved when they confiscate weapons. I had a public spat with the high school principal in one city because he bemoaned that “the media” were making out that his school was suddenly unsafe because they confiscated a gun and several knives, requiring police involvement, in the course of a week — he implied that he’d been taking away knives for years without notifying police. I guess he didn’t mean to imply that his school had been unsafe all along, just that it was something at naturally happened at high schools…

    Anyway. I think a big part of the picture are the parents. There are some who believe it’s perfectly okay to provide their kids with alcohol as long as they’re drinking it at home, because otherwise they’d be sneaking off to drink. And that’s really rather ridiculous. The parents need to be part of the crackdown — they need to at least know that their homeowner’s insurance isn’t going to cover them if they’re allowing underaged kids to drink on their property!

  3. I think it’s a good idea, overall, but I think it’s only one part of a larger solution to an ongoing problem of teen drinking. Yes, it helps take care of the old practice of drinking before a dance, but it doesn’t solve drinking afterward nor does this address the underlying issue. We still need to examine our alcohol education techniques and include parents in that process.

    On a side note, I just want to know how the tests will be carried out. That’s a lot of kids to test in a short amount of time at a dance so I’m interested in the actual test method, how they’re keeping it sanitary, and what they’re doing if someone fails the test.

  4. We’ve just seen 2 young girls die from underage drinking parties. I agree with your statement. It is totally outrageous for parents to “host” a drinking party for kids. I don’t care if you take their keys. You would have to sit in the room with them & monitor intake to ensure nobody was overdosing! It’s simply ridiculous. parents need to be parents & not buddies!!

  5. 20Something, click through to the full T&G article — it looks like Pignataro and other (trained) chaperones would be carrying out the tests, with kids who have positives pulled to the side for re-testing 10-15 minutes later to avoid false positives.

    The lines actually go fairly fast. I forget which town’s prom I went to where I actually observed this in action for a story several eons ago.

  6. I’m digging into my bag of teacher moments here…and I’ve chaperoned a number of high school dances. I personally think all dances should be canceled. Its disturbing beyond belief to watch our young children grind in animalistic ways that would truly blow your minds away. I did my fair share of working the floor myself (I had some good moves…) but I just can’t bare to watch it anymore.

    Seriously though, I think we should not have breathalyzers at school functions. By having these tests, you are sending a message to all students that they must prove innocence before even actually being accused. I find it more effective to have a principal & a couple intimidating teachers standing at the entrance welcoming each kid into the dance with a few words and subtle questions. The second the red flag goes up, you kick them out. In other words, rather than breathalyzers, you have a uber-strict policy of kicking kids out at the moment of doublt.

  7. I wouldn’t go as far as canceling school dances — you need to have a code of conduct and you need to enforce it (hmm, Mr. Bendy could come out of retirement as a snow measuring tool and become a unit of measurement for how far apart you need to be from your partner at a school dance).

    I only have a middle schooler at the moment, and he just sticks to the sidelines and talks with his friends while the girls dance. I think it’s going to take a major personality change before he starts grinding against someone on the dance floor.

  8. When GreaterGrafton Junior is a HS senior…watch out!

    I’m thinking we need some Footloose Youtube clips to cool things down a bit.

  9. Well…at my catholic school dances Sister Mary used to say “leave enough room for the Holy Spirit between you” A good rule to follow…lol.

  10. I think a few of these comments fall under the “How Quickly We Forget” section. I get the feeling that I’m one of your younger posters, bridging the gap a bit. I by no means approve of the whole dry hump & jiggle dance craze right now. I just don’t get it. However, I know my class were no angels either. While we may not have danced the same, our style pissed our parents off as well, just as I’m sure you’re poppin’ & lockin’ drove your parents crazy. Maybe not for the same reasons, but crazy none the less. It’s one of those things you can’t fight because then it’s just done out of spite.

    And we all drank. It’s the eternal cat and mouse game between parents and their children to see how much you can get away with. What better place to drink than somewhere your parents are not? It too is something that I don’t believe will ever change. Just because your beliefs have matured and you may realize the error of your ways, it doesn’t mean your children will understand why it’s wrong. Did you fully comprehend how dangerous drugs and alcohol were at their age? I mean FULLY comprehend the dangers not just to yourself but to others?

    Like everything else, all you can do is educate and hope educated decisions are made. I think the testing is a great idea. Underage drinking is illegal. Any non-prescribed drugs are illegal. Feel free to crack down on them. Young or old, you’re breaking the law. I also think it’s for the best that it doesn’t go on a police record. As I’ve said, underage drinking is a mistake most of us have made. There should be some sort of penalty, be it a police record, for repeat offenders, but I don’t think there’s a need for everything to be recorded. Kids are dumb. They make tons of mistakes. That’s how most of us do our best learning. It’s unfortunate when these mistakes carry severe consequences, but all you can do is educate. In this instance, while I think classes carry merit, I feel the best education here is done at home.

  11. Take a look in the comments section of that T&G article… the second to last comment. Think this guy has some issues with Grafton?

  12. Ouch, crazy caps lock! Looks like he has serious DPW issues…

    That article looks like it’s giving the T&G a moderation workout. I could have sworn there were 7 comments there an hour ago and now there are only 3!

    AJ, I was shaking my head this weekend over an article about teenage drinking where an expert suggested that one way to control it was to ensure that your child never had a sleepover, because “teenagers don’t need sleepovers.” They most certainly do. When else are their teenage covens going to meet? Isn’t it easier to open up, even to your best friend, when the lights are off and you should have gone to sleep hours before? I think parents need to remember their teen years with an eye to the fact that they ARE the parents now, not the cool older kids who provide the beer.

  13. Hey, I didn’t see any “grinding” going on in the Footloose video. That was a topic of discussion yesterday on the radio. The kids at dances are now (how do I put this delicately so I’m not sensored?) simulating fornication on the dance floor. Just let your imagination run on that one..Oh dear… Not looking forward to those years with my kids.

    Maybe that’s a topic for another discussion. 🙂

  14. Exactly GG! As we get older, we bitch about work, life, the man, whatever. We have stress. We hang out with friends, have a few drinks, and blow off some steam. As the places we pick up our stress change, we forget or belittle the things that used to get us worked up. Teenagers don’t have it any easier. We think they do because we’re burdened with “real world” issues, while they’re are mostly superficial. But at the time, they’re your world!

    I still go to sleep overs. We just call them what they are – parties. The kid goes to his grandparents for the night, and we all know better than to drive. But have our methods for having fun and blowing off steam changed that much? With a mortgage and a kid my opportunities to do so have lessened, but I still enjoy having a few drinks with the same people I did in my late teens and early 20’s. They’re some of my closest friends for just the reasons you listed. The brutal honesty you can only share while under the influence!

    Again, I don’t advocate underage drinking. In rereading my comments, I don’t want them misconstrued. I think parent hosted “drinking parties” are insane. I see the reasoning, but I don’t know how anyone thinks it’s a good idea. I think we should do everything we can to prevent underage drinking. I’m just also a realist who thinks we’ll never fully eradicate it, so my goal is to make sure my kids make smart choices.

  15. Where to begin….so many good comments.
    1. Parents own what happens to their kids – noone else.
    2. Parents who allow kids to break the law by allowing underage drinking in their homes should be culpable under the law.
    3. Alcohol testing should be administered based on reasonable sucspicion and only by qualifed, trained people. Positives should involve the parents and the police – if not to create a record – to create fear.
    4. Typically, tests are administered and repeated once after a 15 minute waiting period. If the amount drops below the legal limit, the lower value stands – typically. But, the standards, procedures, and consequences should be dictated by clear policy and should be done so with input from parents, police and schools.
    5. Dances are a fundamental, dare I say, mandatory part of growing up. Children should be taught by their parents what’s appropriate and what is not.

    Now a story….
    I have a young cousin – who was the flower girl in my wedding; my babysitter and nanny for several summers and my friend. Over the past 5 years I have pulled her out of the projects in South Boston; read about her in the Globe – she walked away from a fatal car accident that killed her boyfriend; celebrated her recovery(ies) through rehab; and cried as she was arrested for grand larceny and intent to distribute heroin a few months ago. She’s now awaiting trial in a New Bedford jail. My kids (13, 11, and 6) know this story and have felt the anguish our collective family has endured as a result of her collapse – the impacts were far reaching. But, the message is clear – there is no room in their young lives for the use of illegal drugs and the misuse of alcohol. These behaviors destroy lives. George and I have committed to them that we will do everything in our power to eliminate that risk – even if it’s uncomfortable, limiting, or seemingly stupid.

    In the interest of full disclosure, I enjoy my cocktails. The issue is doing what you are allowed to do legally, and doing it responsibly.

  16. I commend Mary Ann for sharing that story and others should do so too and continue them as I am sure that after several days this and other postings will be in the GreaterGrafton archive and become yesterdays news.

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