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Park City policy: Breathalyzer before school dance

Park City policy: Breathalyzer before school dance

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PARK CITY, Utah (AP) -- A Park City School District policy has high school students blowing into Breathalyzers before being allowed inside a school dance.

The five-year-old policy is intended to keep school activities safe and to send a message to students that underage drinking is not allowed, District Director of Students Services Tom Van Gorder said.

"At this point, we Breathalyze every kid coming to a dance," he said. "They know they can't drink before a dance."

The tests were used at the high school's recent Homecoming Dance held at the Deer Valley lodge, Van Gorder said.

The Breathalyzer is a deterrent and is for the safety of everybody involved.

–Tom Van Gorder

Breathalyzers are also used at home football games if a faculty member observes behavior they believe might be related to alcohol use by students.

"The Breathalyzer is a deterrent and is for the safety of everybody involved," Van Gorder said.

The American Civil Liberties Union has challenged the practice of "suspicionless" tests in other states as a violation of a Fourth Amendment ban on illegal searches. Portland Public Schools in Oregon recently dropped its mandatory Breathalyzer program after the issue was raised by the ACLU.

But Utah ACLU Legal Director Darcy Goddard said no one here has lodge a complaint.

"We have been very consistent challenging suspicionless testing of high school students," she said. "Whenever you subject a person to a test of what is going on in their body, it constitutes a search."

Without a complaint, the ACLU is unlikely to raise the issue with the Park City schools, Goddard said.

The use of drugs and alcohol by Park City students probably is no more pronounced than elsewhere, Van Gorder said.

"We're just like any other place," he said. "We have issues that we are aware of. You can't just stick your heads in the sand."

In the Salt Lake City area, however, neither the Granite, Jordan nor Canyons school districts employs such a program.

"Drinking really is not a problem" at Jordan School District events, said spokesman Steve Dunham.

Students at Jordan schools are aware of policies that forbid drugs and alcohol. Police officers and faculty watch for students who behave as if they are under the influence of alcohol or drugs, during events.

"The kids are very cautious about it," Dunham said. "They know they'll get caught."

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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