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High-school drunks - Principal wants breathalysers to help curb substance abuse by students

Published:Wednesday | May 13, 2015 | 5:00 AM

THE PRINCIPAL of at least one high school is considering the use of breathalysers at his school because some students are turning up drunk.

Interim principal at Christiana High School in Manchester Howard Salmon told The Gleaner yesterday that he wants the Ministry of Education to provide breathalysers for the school because of the drinking problem that he has noticed among his students.

"We are seeking to get some breathalysers because some of our students are coming to school drunk," he said.

Salmon, who is an administrator with 30 years under his belt, says he has dealt with numerous issues during his time and indicated that he has to be taking drastic measures given the behaviour of students.

"The students are very creative and we need a lot of things to monitor them, but the breathalyser is a new one I need because you will smell the alcohol on a child, but we need the breathalyser to confirm our suspicions," he added.

Calls to several other schools made by The Gleaner have revealed that Salmon is not the only educator with concerns about alcohol abuse by students.

Dean of Discipline at Bustamante High School Lionel Town, Clarendon, Wayne Evans told The Gleaner that he would not mind being supplied with breathalysers.

"We do have the issue of alcohol abuse. The extent of it we are yet to determine, but we wouldn't mind having some, too," he said.

But Dwayne Edwards, principal at Albert Town High in Trelawny, indicated that while students engaged in drinking, the problem has not escalated to the point that would require him to use breathalysers.

"I am not going to say we don't have students who abuse substances, but I would not want to think that we have a lot of students who are coming here drunk. We have instances where liquor has been taken from students, but it is not a very regular thing," he said.

However, breathalysers in schools is not getting universal support from educators and parents. Carl Sterling, dean of discipline at Vauxhall High in Kingston, does not have the problem of drunk students at his school. He has expressed concern about taking this step to deal with intoxicated students.

"In my humble opinion, I think that it is a step too far ... we must be careful not to have our schools being too policed and that we don't substitute safety for fear. Breathalysing students does not necessarily change behaviour. If a student comes to school drunk more than once, what will be done with that student? Are we going to suspend the child without seeking to change the behaviour?" he asked.

President of the National Parent-Teacher Association of Jamaica Everton Hannam has raised concerns about the move to introduce breathalysers to schools.

"I think it's a far-fetched idea. I think the principal could find other ways. I am sure it's not the whole school. I am raising caution about the process. How many will be acquired? Will they be reusable? If the principal has a concern about drunkenness in school, then he should engage the National Council on Drug Abuse," Hannam said.