Pass the test; Webster mulls alcohol policy.
Webster school officials are taking a bold but balanced step on a difficult matter.
A policy is being developed that would administer an alcohol breath test for students who show signs of intoxication at school or at a school-sponsored event. The proposal passed its first reading at the most recent school committee meeting Nov. 27, and will be enacted if adopted after the third reading.
Parents would be notified of the Evidential Breath Test policy, and their signed consent would be needed.
Administrators often feel at a loss faced with this sort of dilemma. Issues of legality, privacy and practicality can stymie action even when the situation cries out for an adult to step in. A middle or high school student who may be taking the first wrong steps toward a serious problem with substance abuse needs to be tapped on the shoulder and dealt with; looking the other way delivers the wrong message.
The breath tests would not be given randomly, but when evidence for suspicion exists. That should reassure all involved that a primary aim is to keep the school environment safe for all and focused on learning.
With regard to the offending student, the intention is first and foremost to help. Obviously, wise help could make an enormous difference.
Not every student who fails the breath test at a school dance needs intervention against addiction, but some do, and everyone else needs to be kept on the level as well. This is school; aside from home life, these years are adults' best chance to build structure and self-respect in young people.
Asking students who appear inebriated to breathe into a device does not cross a line. It is one way of keeping our standards for them high, as they pass through the shaky years of youth toward a long future.