School officials in Foxborough are voting Monday on a new plan to battle underage drinking. The plan to use breathalyzers on students not only during extra-curricular activities, but also during regular school days is being considered after 12 reported incidents of underage drinking last year.
According to Foxborough High School Principal Jeffrey Theodoss, if a teacher suspects a student has been drinking, the school will continue to use standard policies: bring the student to his or her office, have a conversation and then assess whether there has been use of alcohol.
The administration of the breathalyzer, Theodoss said, would be an opportunity for a student to demonstrate that he or she is innocent.
“So I don’t anticipate using it very, very often, nor do I anticipate using it on a student multiple times,” he explained.
Theodoss said the school will treat breathalyzer tests in the same way that police do when they pull over a suspected drunk driver: "We're thinking that we're pretty confident when we accuse the student of being involved in alcohol, and when that occurs, we're giving the student the opportunity to say that we're wrong."
Like an adult pulled over by the police, a student will have the right to refuse a breathalyzer test, but Theodoss said he doesn't see why that would be an attractive option to the student.
The same punishments will apply to a student if they refuse the test as if they take the test and fail. The teenager would face a five-day suspension from school and a two-week suspension from any extracurricular activity.
So, Theodoss said, "I guess my argument is: why would you not want to take it?"
The American Civil Liberties Union has said the use of breathalyzers is a bad idea which will encourage students to use other drugs, since alcohol is more easily detected, or drink in places where they can't be found by the school.
"You always try to stay a step ahead of the students," Theodoss said. "So we know that drinking and driving is problematic, and we're just trying to be as proactive as we can with another tool that helps us to diagnose that situation."
Theodoss acknowledged that, as the home of the New England Patriots, Foxborough may have more drinking-related issues than a town without a big football team, and those may spill over into the schools. But, he said, that has little to do with the new plan.
“I think that our problem is an universal problem," he said.
This report was compiled by Luciana Almeida. Click here to listen to Robin Young's full interview with Theodoss on Here & Now.
This program aired on October 19, 2009. The audio for this program is not available.