Next week, Belmont High School students will have something extra on their lunch menu: a Breathalyzer.
If all goes as planned, students will have the opportunity to operate the yellow cylinder devise and test their fellow classmates with the detector in preparation for the return of class dances, according to Belmont High School Principal Dan Richards as he provided the Belmont School Committee an update Tuesday, Jan 29, on the school's pilot Breathalyzer program.
"We want (the students) to have fun with (the device) during their lunch hour and become familiar with it and use the Breathalyzer on each other," said Richards who came with the Breathalyzer.
Richards and School Committee volunteer Pascha Griffiths demonstrated the device which Griffiths passed when a green light on the Breathalyzer turned on.
The Breathalyzer will be used for the first time at the school's Dance Formal on Feb. 9, the first major dance ("I hope its a big night with a big crowd," said Richards) at the school for years since a number of incidents involving students coming to dances intoxicated culminating with the infamous "Luau" Dance in 2006 which resulted in a number of students being transported to hospitals for alcohol poisoning and a dozen suspended.
Richard reiterated to the committee the temporary policy and procedures for using the Breathalyzer in the coming year.
Richards said he was approached by students in his first week as principal – he had been Belmont High's assistant principal for eight years before becoming principal of Melrose High for a single school year in 2011-12 – asking if some way dances could return.
One of the top activities on any high school student's wish list is attending a dance, said Richards as they are a great opportunity for socializing and a good fundraiser for classes to be used to reduce the cost of activities such as the Prom for seniors.
"In fact, (the students) said 'How about a Breathalyzer?'" said Richards. A survey of a quarter of the senior class revealed that three of four students would accept being randomly selected to be tested before entering the dance.
"We're on the right track to address the social and emotional needs for the kids," said Richards.
"I hope not to catch one child (with the Breathalyzer) but rather this educates students that we will not tolerate underage drinking," said Richards.