Long Island Schools Try Tougher Tactics to Discourage Prom Drinking

A growing number of Long Island school districts, in an effort to curb the increasing problem of prom-night drinking binges, will be administering police-style field sobriety breath tests at their proms.

Currently, 11 Long Island districts plan to use breath tests: Smithtown, Cold Spring Harbor, Connetquot, Hewlett-Woodmere, Islip, Long Beach, Northport-East Northport, Rockville Centre, Shoreham-Wading River, Three Village and West Islip.

Smithtown is the latest to purchase a Breathalyzer and has been training its staff members to recognize signs of alcohol and drug use and properly administer the test.

Breath tests are “another deterrent that we can use” to discourage students from drinking, Smithtown school board president Gladys Waldron said. Others agree that just knowing they could be tested has worked well as a deterrent to help curb the use of alcohol before the prom

Rockville Centre district has seen a decline in drinking since it first bought a Breathalyzer. “Every year, before we started to use the Breathalyzer, we had kids using alcohol before the prom,” said Carol Burriss, principal of South Side High School in the Rockville Centre district. The breath test, she said, “has made a tremendous difference.”

The growth of alcohol testing by local districts was applauded by Denna Cohen, of Coram, a spokeswoman for the Long Island chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. She said all schools should test students for alcohol consumption, both at social events and at school.

“They’re not waiting till they’re 21 before they drink,” said Cohen, whose daughter Jodi Cohen, 21, was killed by a drunken driver on June 1, 1989. “They need to drink responsibly. Until they can do that, the schools have to do it for them.”

Neal A. Goldstein
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