Spring is a busy and exciting time for high school students in Waukesha and around Wisconsin. Between prom, graduation, and the after-parties which usually accompany these events, there are many exciting nights to look forward to.

But Wisconsin police realize that prom and graduation parties are frequently sources of underage drinking and subsequent drunk driving. For this reason, police in a given community will usually increase patrols on the weekends of these events.

But police and school officials are now going a step further in trying to prevent and detect incidents of underage drinking. Many Wisconsin schools are implementing random breathalyzer testing at major school functions like dances and senior banquets.

Earlier this year, in fact, Waukesha West High School implemented student breathalyzer tests prior to the Sadie Hawkins dance. According to an article in the Journal Sentinel, Germantown High School has implemented a similar policy and the Cedarburg School District will be using breathalyzer testing at their upcoming prom.

There are many school officials and parents in favor of these new breath-testing policies. And one could make an argument that it might ultimately have a positive effect on safety.

However, there are also many questions and potential problems that come with policies like this. First of all, who is administering the tests? Criminal defense attorneys realize that breathalyzer equipment is not foolproof, and the readings can vary widely because of either human error or machines that are not correctly calibrated.

Secondly, what are the potential consequences for students found to have alcohol in their system? Will they face criminal charges or just parental/school consequences?

Finally, do we need to be concerned about the kind of message we are sending by implementing random alcohol screening? If these students will soon be legal adults, do we really want to show them that they cannot be trusted to make good choices on their own?

Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “This year’s hottest prom trend: Breathalyzer tests,” Erin Richards, Mar. 29, 2012