Region 16 BOE approves breathalyzer policy

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BEACON FALLS — The Region 16 school board backed a new policy that would give school officials the authority to issue breathalyzer tests to students.

The Board of Education unanimously approved the second reading of the breathalyzer testing policy at its March 14 meeting.

Under the policy, school administrators and their designated representatives can conduct breathalyzer tests at school, on school buses, or at any school-sponsored activity. The tests could be conducted with all students entering a school-sponsored event, with randomly selected students, or with individual students when reasonable suspicion exists that a student is under the influence of, or has used, alcohol.

Under the policy, the tests would be administered by a trained staff member with a witness present. If the initial test comes back positive a second, confirming test will be done in 15 minutes. If the second test also is positive, the student’s parents will be notified to pick up their child and the student will be subject to disciplinary actions.

Any student who refuses to take the test will be considered to have tested positive.

The policy is one school officials have said is intended to be proactive and is not in response to any particular issues in the schools. Keeping with the theme of being proactive when it comes to drugs and alcohol in schools, the board also introduced a policy to use police K-9s to perform searches on school grounds.

The proposal would give the superintendent of school the power to call in police K-9 units to search school grounds, including cars parked on school grounds, to sweep for drugs and other contraband. Under the proposal, the searches would only be performed “when there are reasonable grounds for suspecting that the search will produce evidence of illegal drugs, alcohol, other contraband or illegal activity.”

“I think it’s proactive,” school board Chair Priscilla Cretella said. “I think it’s something good that we have as a policy in case we ever have to use it.”

Late last year, Naugatuck High School Principal Jan Saam announced plans to begin enforcing the borough school board’s policy for K-9 drug searches in schools to send a message to students that drugs would not be tolerated at the school. The first drug sweep was performed in January at Naugatuck High. Police found no drugs at the school.

“It is not an acknowledgement that it needs to be done at this school or any other school,” Region 16 interim Superintendent of Schools Tim James said about the proposal. “But the board needs the ability to be able to do this if there is reasonable cause or just cause to conduct this type of search.”