District policy explained
March 12, 2019 By:Lauren Murphy
By Jordan Danner
On February 26 a new SKPS High School Dance Agreement was posted on the McNary website. This agreement form included many rules of previous dances (such as limiting bags and open containers allowed into the dance, no inappropriate or unsafe dancing, and no reentry into the dance); however, this form had a new addition. “All McNary High students will be subject to a random breathalyzer test before entering the dance.” This dance agreement, including that bolded line of text, must be turned in (with parent signatures) before entry into the next McNary dance. The Neon Dance on March 1 was the first dance to implement this policy.
This agreement was created at a district level. “It took them awhile to get to that point [having the form completed] and they [the school district] did it just about five days before our dance,” said McNary High School Vice Principal Dan Borresen. “Our dance came first” This form will presumably be used at every high school in the Salem-Keizer school district. The form may have slight tweaks between the schools but will largely be the same form.
At the Neon Dance the students tested were chosen by the random roll of a dice. Students were asked to turn in their consent forms upon entering the dance. As they turned in their consent forms they were asked to name a number between one and six; then the student rolled a dice. If the dice matched the number they said they would proceed to go to a separate room and be tested. Principal Erik Jespersen administered the tests. No police officers or health care professionals were involved in the administering of the breathalyzers.
As of right now, this form will be mandatory at any district event or school wide event that is a dance. “Our number one goal is student safety. There is nothing more important. Everything that we do at school. Everything that we do activity wise- student safety is the number one priority,” Borresen said. “This is enacted essentially to help students make good choices so that they are safe”.
“Dances are especially difficult because students are coming, usually, late at night” Borresen said. “We don’t want students under the influence of anything out driving around late at night. We want our kids safe.”
Due to the nature of breathalyzers, no other drug besides alcohol will be tested. If there is suspicion of a student having taken a different illegal substance the same procedures from previous dances will be followed. “We bring them in and run them through some basic physical tests. Often times students, when they are under the influence of some type of drug, they talk to you. And they let you know, usually,” Borresen said.
Of the about 70 students who turned in dance consent forms around 10 were tested and none were positive. If a student did test positive the administration would contact their parents and go from there.
“We’d do what we typically do before breathalyzers. We can- There are tests we can do and see if they’re inebriated. And then we’d call parents and have them come pick them up,” If a student arrived and appeared intoxicated Borresen said.
If a student does test positive on the breathalyzer or one of the other tests students may or may not be reported to police. “It depends. If a student’s been driving that would be up to the police not us”. The first person called will always be the parents. Although there will presumably be consequences at school; the main goal is always safety,’ Borresen said.
The form signed for the Neon Dance will carry on to the next dance the student attends. In McNary’s case that dance is Prom. The form may be filled out when students register for the next school year and will remain on file, presumably, until the next school year when an additional form is filled out. The administration is still in the early stages of using this form and have not reached a consensus on how it will be enacted in the future. The administration was very careful to prevent any legal ramifications.
This form could be compared to a school field trip permission slip according to Borresen. Dances are not necessary or required for the school or for a students education, so if a student does not wish to sign the consent form they do not have to. They just won’t attend any dances. Attendance to dances is optional and “it’s a choice that’s extra,” Borresen said.
The goal of the breathalyzer test is not to catch anyone inebriated, but is instead more of a prevention measure. “If we never catch anybody I will be thrilled,” Borresen said. The school wishes to keep students safe and sober. Intoxicated students also can make other students uncomfortable. “We have to respond to them [student reports of intoxication at dances] cause we don’t want people not coming to dance cause they don’t feel safe. We want them safe before the dance, during the dance, and after the dance. We want our students taken care of,” Borresen said.
“It’s not about catching people doing something wrong, it’s about giving people an opportunity to make, having a reason, to kinda make some good choices,” Borresen said.