No Prom Pre-Gaming: School To Breath Test Students Before Big Dance

By Victoria Kim 04/12/18

One Missouri high school decided to initiate a crackdown after some students showed up drunk to a fall dance in 2017.

Close up of teenage prom-going couple

It’s not unusual for police to set up local DWI checkpoints on prom night, but some Missouri high schools are taking it a step further by testing for intoxication closer to the action: at the entrance to prom.

The Columbia Daily Tribune reports that all students attending prom this year at Rock Bridge High School in Columbia, Missouri, will be given a breathalyzer test upon entering to make sure they haven’t been drinking before the big dance.

“We plan to have every student who enters the prom to have a Breathalyzer,” said Rock Bridge Principal Jennifer Rukstad. “It is not a veiled threat. It’s important for the culture of our prom that we do it this way.”

The idea came about from a meeting between school administrators and Rock Bridge’s Student Council, while discussing possible solutions to ensure the safety—and sobriety—of underage promgoers. The concern arose after some students “showed up drunk” at a fall dance last year.

Superintendent Peter Stiepleman insists that the students’ safety is their number one concern, and said that he is confident that no student will fail the breathalyzer test.

“This is not to arrest children,” said Stiepleman. “This is just to ensure that they get home safely.”

But if they do happen to fail, their parents will be called and they will have to be picked up. No student who fails the test will be allowed to drive home.

Other schools in Columbia will have the breathalyzer option, but the test will not be mandatory for all students. This applies to Battle High School and Hickman High School proms. The test will only be administered if a student is suspected to have been drinking, and only with a parent’s consent.

One school board member, James Whitt, took issue with this seemingly random profiling of students. “To be singled out, that would be devastating to young people,” he said at the recent meeting.

According to the Kansas City Star, similar policies have been adopted in schools in Nebraska, Iowa, Louisiana, and Texas.

At Rock Bridge, it was reportedly the students’ idea to install the mandatory sobriety checkpoint. But back in 2012, two New Jersey students protested their school’s decision to do the same, saying it violated their Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights.

“It would be one issue if they searched, with reasonable suspicion, people who are misbehaving or people who are being violent,” said one of the students, Sasha Chhabra. “It’s another thing to say that every single student who wants to go to prom is assumed to be guilty, and we must breathalyze every one of them.”

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr