Before high school students in Lawrence step inside a school dance, they'll soon have to step up to a Breathalyzer.
If they pass the test, they'll be waved inside. If not, it's another test or two, a call home to Mom and Dad and a ban from dances for a year. A second offense carries stiffer penalties.
On a 6-1 vote Monday night, the Lawrence school board approved the Breathalyzer policy, which district officials say was a necessary move. A district task force began researching the use of Breathalyzers after at least three students were suspended for showing up intoxicated at two dances in late August.
The Lawrence district joins a growing number of schools nationwide, from California to Florida, that have implemented Breathalyzer testing at school dances. The policy is believed to be the first of its kind in the Kansas City area.
"At what point do you hold kids responsible for their choices?" asked school board vice president Sue Morgan. "This seems like a reasonable place to hold them responsible."
By the end of the week, security employees at the two high schools will begin Breathalyzer training. Three employees at each high school will be trained and tested, along with assistant principals.
The new system, which includes testing all students before they enter a high school dance, won't be in place until after the first of the year, said Rick Gammill, director of special operations for the Lawrence school district.
The new policy, which has been widely publicized, is simple, he said.
"If you go to a dance, you don't drink," Gammill said. "I think it's a no-brainer."
Students who test positive won't face suspension or expulsion. According to the policy, on a first offense, the district will call the student's parents or guardian and have them pick the student up at the dance. That student would also be banned from school dances for an entire calendar year.
For a second offense, students are banned from school dances for the rest of their high school career. And seniors who fail a Breathalyzer at prom could be excluded from the remaining senior activities, such as graduation.
Some voiced concern, Gammill said, that the latter provision was too punitive.
Said Morgan: "We need some consequence with teeth for that."
School board member Cindy Yulich said she felt the entire policy was as strong as it needed to be.
"We need to have high expectations for our young people," she said. "I just don't think the consequences of this are too severe given what can happen in absence of this policy."
The district joins a growing number of schools nationwide, from California to Florida, that have implemented testing at school dances