At each Paly dance, students wait in extensive lines to be breathalyzed and searched to ensure that no contraband is brought in before entering.
Despite Paly’s emphasis in regard to students’ rights, the right to privacy is evidently not considered when requiring students to be cleared with a breathalyzer test and bag search before entering school events.
Not only is this procedure a clear invasion of privacy, it is also ineffective and extremely time consuming.
While the desire to prevent students from attending dances while intoxicated is understandable, the methods Paly implements are ineffective, as they do not prevent students from alcohol or drug use during these events. Students are often able to find ways to circumvent these protocols by sneaking contraband past bag searchers.
The policy of breathalyzing also results in students resorting to other potentially more harmful illegal substances instead of alcohol in order to avoid detection and disciplinary measures.
Another way that many students avoid these invasive policies is by simply not attending school dances and other school-sponsored events. Dances are an important way for Paly to raise money, with Associated Student Body (ASB) raising over $5,000 of funds from 2018 Homecoming ticket sales alone, according to ASB expenses documents. These funds are essential in order to continue hosting student events such as school dances, and the Paly student budget would suffer if students were to stop attending school-sponsored paid events.
This process has also been proven to be very time consuming when applied to every single student that enters the dance, leaving students waiting in lines for longer than necessary. This encumbrance poses yet another reasons for students to avoid school events. Without this process, the length of the lines to enter would be drastically shortened.
Furthermore, routine searching and breathalyzing is an overt invasion of privacy. Similar to the widespread discomfort when Americans discovered that the National Security Agency was conducting warrantless surveillance on citizens’ phone calls in an effort to counter potential terrorism, many students feel uncomfortable with the unnecessary inspections.
Unreasonable searches and seizures, which citizens are protected against by the Fourth Amendment, should be excluded from Paly’s routine security measures.
Although it is technically legal for schools to conduct these searches at optional extracurricular events, Paly should strive to give students as much freedom and fair treatment as possible. Thus it is unfair for all students to have the contents of their bags looked over, when only a few students are actually carrying illicit substances.
While some may argue that this policy helps to deter students from partaking in drinking and using recreational drugs at school dances, it is a highly ineffective method.
Although breathalyzing and searching bags do make it harder to bring illegal substances into dances, students are still able to bring in alcohol by hiding it in concealed compartments of bags and pockets, which poses a greater liability concern for the school than if students consumed alcohol before attending. In addition, students are likely to use other drugs to avoid failing a breathalyzer test.
Paly should replace the current screening with a policy where students are searched and breathalyzed only if there is reason to believe that a student is under the influence. This would not only improve trust between administration and students, but also because students would understand the consequences that are induced if they were to use in drugs or alcohol during the event, they would be more likely to comply with the expectation of sobriety.