Administration Strives for Alcohol-Free Dances


Julia Sandquist

breathalyzer online
StuPAC member and WHS junior Hannah Mouradian demonstrates how to correctly use a breathalyzer. This small, portable breathalyzer will be available for use if necessary at school dances. Photo by Max Simons.

By Julia Sandquist

News Editor

   Over the past few years, the Walpole High School Student Council (StuCo) and administration have effectively worked together to increase school spirit and student participation at various school events. Whether it is at a football game or a school dance, there is always a large turnout of students who are eager to show pride for their school and have a good time while doing it. However, a large number of high school students in one place can have its setbacks: it has facilitated underage teen drinking, especially at school dances. Now, administration and StuCo are working together to find a solution to this drinking problem that occurs at the events they have worked so hard to organize.

In the past few school dances, administration had to remove seven students because they were intoxicated.

  To solve this problem, administration met with student council members and school committee members to discuss different options. While a stricter policy of breathalyzing every student who entered a dance to ensure every student in attendance is sober was under consideration, the final decision is to have breathalyzers on hand to only use on students who appear intoxicated.

Administration determined that breathalyzing every student that enters the dance would send the wrong message to students, and it would be unfair to those who came sober.

  Walpole High School administration expects to use the breathalyzers sparingly and only when necessary. This policy is similar to the Walpole Police Department’s way of handling breathalyzers.

  “It would not be done arbitrarily or capriciously and would only be based on reasonable suspicion – specific articulable facts surrounding the matter,” said Chief of Police John Carmichael.

  “In addition to having a breathalyzer on-hand and using it when necessary, we need to spread the word that drinking cannot and will not be tolerated at dances and increase vigilance among chaperones,” said Principal Stephen Imbusch.

  Even though administration has found a solution to deal with intoxicated students at dances, its main goal is to prevent drinking from occurring in the first place. Imbusch and StuCo members agreed that student leaders must step up to discourage their peers from drinking before the dances.

  “Incentives need to be established to reward students who exhibit positive behavior at school dances and choose not to drink,” said StuCo President Dillon Knight.

  School Committee Vice Chair Nancy Gallivan explained that administration needs help from student leaders, for she believes kids are less likely to come drunk if their peers find it unacceptable.     

  “Students need to recognize that it is a privilege that requires staff and administrators to give up their free time and that needs to be respected. So maybe the goal should never be to get 100% attendance, but to make sure that the 100% of the people who attend are sober,” said Gallivan.

  While students were concerned that the annual January Winter Ball would not occur due to previous incidents with drinking at recent dances, administration and StuCo finally decided to set the date for the Winter Ball on January 8, with the expectation that students will not come intoxicated. Imbusch stressed that the Winter Ball is a privilege that is not expected to be further abused. When asked what would happen if the drinking continued, he said, “The only option I will have would be to stop all dances.”

  However, Imbusch is hopeful that the drinking situation will improve at the next dance with the help of student leaders and staff spreading the word that drinking will not be tolerated.

“I hope that everyone who attends the Winter Ball will be sober and will have a wonderful night out with their friends,” he said.

   Superintendent Lincoln Lynch agreed that in order to stop drinking once and for all, it is necessary that administration and students start talking about the issue.

  “I think any conversation relative to the elimination of student drinking is positive,” he said, “Perhaps the most powerful of all conversations will be student to student.”