Breathalyzer a sobering reminder for Penticton students

No students were found under the influence at last week's winter formal at Penticton Secondary

Students attending last Thursday’s winter formal at Penticton Secondary passed their breathalyzer tests with flying colours.

“There wasn’t one instance of a student that came under the influence, and that was really the intention,” principal Alan Stel said Tuesday.

“It’s not to say that it’s 100 per cent foolproof in a situation like this, but I’d say we’ve reduced the temptation significantly.”

It was the first event at which the school required students to submit to a breathalyzer test in order to gain entrance. While a lack of policy around use of the device caused concern for the president of the school’s parent advisory committee, Stel said he hasn’t received “any negative feedback at all from parents or kids in the last three days.”

About 240 students in Grades 11 and 12 gave breath samples on their way into the dance, and a few others were randomly tested during the event to ensure they hadn’t consumed alcohol on site.

“We also used it over top of the punch bowl just to double-check it a few times because there were a few rumours out there that it was spiked; there was no evidence of there being any alcohol in there,” Stel said.

The principal stressed that the breathalyzer is intended only to keep school events safe.

“I think kids like to know what to expect and they like to know it’s a safe event and that’s really our focus. This is not some way to entrap them or punish them. It’s just to ensure that this is going to be a safe evening.”

Police are happy to have Stel borrow a page from their playbook.

“Anything that prevents youth from drinking, and ultimately perhaps driving or causing problems related to drinking, we’re in favour of,” said Penticton RCMP spokesman Sgt. Rick Dellebuur.

School dances are “not a big problem for us,” he continued, “but you always have people who crash them who have been drinking and they cause problems. If they’re not actually in the dance then they’re out and about causing problems on the perimeter.”

Dellebuur also said the breathalyzer tests don’t create any issues in terms of personal freedom because dances are private events.

“It’s the same as a dress code. You may say nobody can attend in blue jeans, right? It’s one of the rules. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to go.”