Every year during prom season, parents face the cruel worry that their child might be one of the more than 6,000 underage drinkers to die an alcohol-related death each year.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving reports that, “In 2004, during weekends around prom, graduation and homecoming, 47 percent of traffic crash fatalities of 15- to 20-year-olds were alcohol-related.”
Much of that alcohol is consumed in and around the school party itself and it is a harsh equalizer: The kid who often dies isn’t the one who was drinking.
When schools hold functions knowing that teens will be trying to drink, administrators have a moral obligation to protect them.
It’s long overdue for schools to create a zero-alcohol-tolerance culture – where all students know that they’ll take a mandatory Breathalyzer test to walk into (or out of) a school dance.
No one thinks twice about metal detectors in school to catch weapons in high-risk areas. Yet in 2004, there were 2,825 gun deaths for children and teens – less than half the number of those underage drinking deaths.
No one complains about mandatory drug testing for student athletes. Yet the volume and consequences of teen drinking are far greater.
After two high-profile tragedies, New Jersey principal William Trusheim created a comprehensive Breathalyzer policy for his district. If students want to go to a dance they have to give advance permission to be Breathalyzed – and take the test if selected. Or schools can test all students, to keep things equal.
Critics say blanket approaches penalize kids who are doing the right thing. But sober teens can still die at the hands of drunk ones.
There should be no outrage over testing kids for something they legally can’t use and is dangerous to a still-developing brain.
Instead, as certain mandatory-testing schools in New Jersey and Massachusetts have found, testing everyone changes the culture.
Trusheim said: “The atmosphere at the dances is so much more positive now. It takes the pressure off from kids having to deal with others drinking.”
Shaunti Feldhahn (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a conservative Christian author and speaker, and married mother of two.