Many students at CHS were appalled by the announcement that students would be breathalyzed at random upon entering Winter Formal. After reports of unsafe behavior at Crescent Valley’s Homecoming, administration reached the decision to have breathalyzers at the combined dance in January. This declaration triggered a plethora of complaints and arguments amongst the student body at CHS.
The controversy was something of an unspoken debate between students claiming that they hold a right to privacy, and staff and authorities hoping to maintain a safe and sober dance. In the end, it appears as if Winter was as successful and fun a dance as any other, but the tension and confusion over the breathalyzers persists.
Some students didn’t feel that the breathalyzers affected the dance in either a positive or negative way. Lily Mosher, also a junior, was one of the randomly breathalyzed dance-goers. “It was a little weird because I’d never seen a breathalyzer before”, Mosher recalled, “I was nervous even though I didn’t have anything to be nervous about.” This was a feeling seemingly unanimous among students breathalyzed. Annija Sproles, a sophomore who was also breathalyzed, added, “It was a weird feeling. I didn’t drink, and I knew that I didn’t drink, but I also worried, “what if it turns up red?”
The uneasiness of students arose as the biggest fault of the presence of breathalyzers at the dance. Even those not breathalyzed still underwent the discomfort. Sproles recounted entering with a large group of friends, all of them with the same unsettled feeling. She explained, “You are supposed to go in free, and friendly, and happy, but you go in like a scared chihuahua”. All jokes aside, Mosher seemed to agree with this notion, as she further mused, “It’s almost like going through security at the airport. You know that you don’t have anything to hide, but it takes away from the fun feeling.” In this way, students considered the precaution as mostly an inconvenience– friend groups being broken up upon entry, students lingering around as their date was being breathalyzed, congestion accumulating in the doorway due to a slow line. However, Mosher described that the tension eased up once students entered the building. She explained, “[Being breathalyzed] shifted the vibe a little bit, but once I was in the dance it wasn’t any different.”
A main claim of students opposed to the breathalyzers was that they felt their privacy being invaded. Charlotte Nembhard, a junior, remarked, “If the purpose of our school’s dances is to have a fun and safe environment, then having [breathalyzers] that there at the beginning of the dance kills the mood for the night. It feels like an invasion of student’s privacy.”
The reality of the situation is this: by going to the dance, you give permission for the police to breathalyze you. Think of it this way– if a person attends a sports event, the security at the arena can legally search their bag upon entry. However, if this same person is walking down the street and the police were to randomly conduct a bag search, this would be uncalled for and illegal. The same goes for breathalyzing: a person not displaying signs of intoxication cannot legally be subject to a breathalyzer test in public. However, making the choice to attend a dance with breathalyzers qualifies you to be breathalyzed at random, as would you be at mercy of a bag search upon entry to a sports arena.
The question on many students’ minds is whether or not breathalyzers will continued to be used at dances, particularly at Prom this May. Word from the Leadership team is yes– as far as we know, breathalyzers will be a fixture at dances in the foreseeable future.
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