Breathalyzer policy being developed for SD 91

Controversy recently over the suspension of two Fort St. James Secondary (FSJSS) students could lead to new policy for School District 91.

Controversy recently over the suspension of two Fort St. James Secondary (FSJSS) students could lead to new policy for School District 91.

The controversy came after their principal reportedly administered a breathalyzer test after he suspected the students at FSJSS were drinking when they returned late to class, according to one of the students interviewed on CBC Radio.

The students were suspended as a result of the test.

The BC Civil Liberties Association has said the administration of such a test may be a contravention of the students’ civil rights under Section 8 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. However, schools have been administering breathalyzers in the past, only in a different capacity, according to School District 91

“Essentially, what happens is they began to be used at functions like school dances, where people observed students who they thought had been drinking and the student maintained they hadn’t been,” said Ernie Mannering, director of instruction for School District 91.

The school board has now directed principals within the school district not to use the breathalyzers until a policy is developed.

Mannering said the school district will be reviewing the matter and developing a policy starting in January.

The devices in question are not even true breathalyzer tests, according to Mannering, but more accurately described as “screening devices” which give an indication or a non-indication of the presence of alcohol.

He said the principals and other administration do not receive specific training to administer the tests.

“It’s definitely not the case this is a highly technical process, it’s a yes or no,” said Mannering.

Mannering would not comment on the case of the two students already suspended or any disciplinary action for Principal Young, but he did say the school district would welcome a chance to meet with the parents of the two students to address their concerns.

While the school district did try to contact the families, he said no meeting was arranged so far.

The policy the school district would be developing would not be province-wide and the Ministry of Education has no policy regarding such tests on students.