Mandatory Breathalyzers at School Dances

March 13, 2007

Reported by: Britney Glaser

It's that time of year again for tuxes, formal gowns and the making of high school memories. Prom 2007 is just around the corner, but this year, many high school students are in for a big change before they hit the dance floor.

In an attempt to curb drinking at school functions, Vermilion Parish school officials are adding a new policy to their handbook: the use of breathalyzers by every person walking in the doors at Prom, Homecoming and Sadie Hawkins dances.

It's just a few short weeks until the students at Gueydan High School will trade in their school shoes for their dancing shoes.  Gabrielle Vallo, a senior at Gueydan High, says, "I like getting ready.  I like the whole idea of getting dolled-up."

But this year in Vermilion Parish, the final step before entering prom is a mandatory breathalyzer for every person attending the school dance.  Gueydan High School Principal, Luddy Herpin, says, "All high schools will have a breathalyzer test."

Students say it's been common practice for their peers to come to school dances intoxicated.  "Last year it was pretty bad," says Vallo, "even though the school didn't permit you to drink, everyone did it because they knew they wouldn't get in trouble."  Chelsea Bertrand, also a senior at Gueydan High, says, "I've seen people who were drunk at the dances."

This year, there will be consequences to the drinking and accountability for each student.  Bertrand says, "The students who would normally drink were very upset."

"I think once it came down to it," says Vallo, "they realized, it's Prom, this is how it's gonna be, so either do it like this or don't go...and a lot of them changed their minds."

The students still choosing to attend Prom will be handed a plastic straw when they arrive and will be required to blow into the breathalyzer for about four seconds.  Students registering a .015 or above will be set aside and their parents will be called.

"It's a shame," says Herpin, "that the schools have to take this over. We shouldn't have to take the role of the parent."  While this move to control teen drinking is welcomed by school officials, some students say a Prom without alcohol only makes sense.  "We shouldn't be able to drink anyway," says Bertrand, "we're underage."

"You don't want to go to the dance sloppy drunk," says Vallo, "To me, it just looks bad, and you don't remember anything you're doing anyway, and that's the whole point of Prom."

Each breathalyzer costs about $350 and all schools in Vermilion Parish will have access to them throughout the year.