West Hartford Students Will Be Screened for Alcohol at Prom

The West Hartford School district is hoping to prevent underage drinking at school events with a new screening program, and it will be tested at prom.

Parents at West Hartford's Conard and Hall High Schools received a letter explaining their kids will have to pass a passive alcohol screening test before heading into prom.

Conard High School parent Gretchen Mayne says she's seen what happens when teens drink at school events.

“I think the first football game this year, you know there were some kids that were falling off the bleachers,” Mayne said.

Maybe received the letter detailing the new Passive Alcohol Screening test prom-goers will have to take if they want to be allowed in. She thinks it's a great idea.

“What's the purpose of prom, is it to be drunk or have fun with your friends?” Mayne said.

The move by the West Hartford Board of Education is meant to enforce existing underage drinking rules at any school-sponsored event. The Passive Alcohol Sensor (PAS) devices are different from traditional breathalyzer tests - instead of blowing through them, teens will be asked to just breathe across them. The test is also meant to sniff out any alcohol that may be hidden.

If the device detects alcohol, the student will have to wait 15 minutes and take a second test. If the student fails again, school officials will call a parent or guardian and the student could face disciplinary action. 

“Students will have to pass through, and it takes no time at all,” explained Cheryl Greenberg, chair of the West Hartford Board of Education.

Greenberg said no specific incident prompted this change. Rather, it's an effort to stay ahead of keeping students safe.

“We didn't want to respond to something, we wanted to be proactive,” she said.

Jeff Cao, another Conard parent, supports the measure, but he questions if mandatory testing shows a lack of faith in teens.

“They want to feel like they should be trusted with their being juniors and seniors,” Cao said.

Mayne said teens still need supervision to stay safe.

“Kids have a lot of responsibility on them and setting some boundaries and parameters I think is an OK thing to do,” she said.

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