Belmont High School's next dance on Feb. 9 will have something extra for students attending. In addition to a band, DJs and refreshments, there will be a Breathalyzer greeting those arriving.
With a number of past incidents involving students attending school functions after drinking liquor before the events and the results of the most recent Youth Risk Assessment Surveys showing alcohol continues to be a significant health issue among a number of students – nearly a quarter of seniors said they have been involved in "binge" drinking – the High School is joining with the Belmont Police Department to introduce alcohol testing by Belmont Police to students beginning with the mid-winter dance.
Belmont joins many schools systems including neighboring Arlington by adding a Breathalyzer to secure entry to dances and potentially other school functions and also for use during school hours if staff feels a pupil has come to school intoxicated.
Belmont School Superintendent Dr. Thomas Kingston said that the schools "have a serious misuse of alcohol or use that is not controlled," according to a Fox25 newscast on Monday, Jan. 14.
Belmont has the dubious reputation as a "drinking" town – some students and residents have referred to the community as "Booze-mont" – highlighted by an infamous incident when several students were treated for alcohol poisoning and a dozen suspended at a 2005 "Luau"-themed dance at the High School which a year later was turned into a student-written play.
Belmont High School Principal Dan Richards is currently working with his staff on adding into the student handbook language that will incorporate new policy and procedures on the use of the handheld device.
Richards has noted in the past that students have overwhelmingly supported the use of Breathalyzers to allow for more dances and other functions at the school.
A demonstration by Belmont Police of the Breathalyzer is scheduled for Feb. 1 – at which time the students will see how it works including with an adult volunteer who will consume liquor – so students and staff can see how it works.