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Tiverton School Committe Approves Breathalyzer Policy For High School

Tiverton school administrators can now administer a breathalyzer test to students suspected of using alcohol at school-sponsored events.

In a unanimous vote on Tuesday, the Tiverton Shool Committee passed the breathalyzer policy to enable high school administrators to use the tests on students suspected of using alcohol.

In the policy's third reading since it was drafted in May, little discussion and no addition input from parents or students precluded the vote.

"The breathalyzer policy would allow administrators to press those students suspected of being under influence to take the breathalyzer," said Supt. William Rearick. "It is just an additional step for those students we already suspect are under the influence of drugs or alcohol."

Tests would be administered in private by either the Principal Steven Fezette or Vice Principal Jack McKinnon - both will be trained to use the equipment by Tiverton Police.

"This is about common sense and not just to be punitive," said School Committee Chairwoman Sally A. Black in an interview about the policy's goals on Sept. 13.

"It is all about prevention and support because with the students and children we are supposed to help them through these things."

Just like adults suspected of drunken-driving, students would have a right of refusal against the breathalyzer, but under the policy, which was proposed by the Tiverton Prevention Coalition. Results would become part of students' educational records and would not be reported to police for possible criminal action.

According to Rearick, refusing the test would not save students from disciplinary action. 

"A student has a right to refuse to take the test, but that doesn't preclude the student from being suspended anyway based on other evidence," he said. The breathalyzer will be used a final step whenever other procedures suggest a student is under the influence. It will never be administered randomly to students at school dances or events.

Similar policies exist at public schools in Portsmouth, Middletown, Barrington, Chariho, Westport, Fall River and Somerset.

"As we all know the number one death for teens is traffic accidents," said Rebecca Elwell of the Tiverton Prevention Coalition, at a May meeting when the policy was originally suggested. "We want to prevent an event from happening."

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