I think we can all agree that keeping alcohol out of our schools is an admirable goal but what happened last week in St. Charles, Minnesota took the notion a little too far.   Seniors at St. Charles High School were made to submit to breathalyzer tests by the school prior to graduation practice or risk the possibility of not graduating at all if they refused.  

School administrators maintained that during a graduation rehearsal they observed a group of about twenty students acting strangely and they suspected the kids had been drinking.  District policy called for the school to bring in the police when drinking is suspected and that’s exactly what they did.  So the police came.  And they tested.  Every…single…student.  Though the school wouldn’t say exactly how many kids tested positive for alcohol, they would say that it was “more than 10”.

Suffice it to say that the school’s actions were met with outrage by some parents.  Parent Jim Welp said he was shocked when his son Alec called him to tell that he had been breathalyzed.  “When he said that, right away I knew they couldn’t do that,”said Welp in an interview with the local TV station WCCO.  Welp and other parents then went to the school to confront administrators over the testing.

The angered parents maintained that the school had no probable cause to test their kids while, predictably, school officials said they did.   Superintendent Mark Roubinek responded that the school suspected that some of the kids they had observed were in fact drunk and that they were fearful of students driving their vehicles home.  “It was a bad situation.  It would have been a terrible situation if some kids would have gotten hurt or killed,” said Roubinek.

OK. I hear ya.  Kids shouldn’t be drinking in school.  But as a PA DUI and Underage Drinking Lawyer, I can tell you that the police can force no one to take a breathalyzer test if there is no probable cause to believe that alcohol has been consumed. Now, if just the school was administering the breathalyzer (also known as a “portable breath test” or “pbt”), with no police involvement, the right to compel the kids take them becomes more vague.  But that was not the case in Minnesota.   Perhaps a lesson:  the phrase “an ounce of prevention is worth of pound of cure” can carry with a little bit more inconvenience than people care to endure.  Stay safe.

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