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Latest prom accessory: Breathalyzer

If students at a couple of Southern high schools want to get their groove on at the prom, they'll have to be prepared to blow into a Breathalyzer for the privilege as schools take technological steps to combat prom night drinking.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Students at South Carolina’s Hilton Head High School students will need more than fancy dresses and tuxedos to get into this year's prom. They'll also have to pass a blood-alcohol test. At Science Hill High School in Johnson City, Tenn., prom-goers won't have to pass an alcohol test to party — but Breathalyzers will be on hand as a deterrent to prom night drinking.

Hilton Head High decided to test all students to see if they have been drinking after several students arrived at last year's prom drunk, said Obie Schramm of the Beaufort County School District.

"Unfortunately, there's always a handful of students drinking, and that makes it hard for everyone. We don't want something terrible to happen," Schramm said.

School officials will administer the tests, Principal Helen Ryan said.

Student Alex Clare, who is helping to organize the prom, said he supports testing for alcohol.

If I'm not drinking, then it doesn't bother me. I think some people are mad at it, but I can see why (the school) did it," Clare said.

Beaufort County school officials said they will look at Hilton Head High's plan before deciding whether to do blood-alcohol tests at the district's other three high school proms.

Administrators at Science Hill High in East Tennessee have purchased blood alcohol content testing devices to discourage students from imbibing before or during Saturday's prom.

Student Government Association President Emily Aiken said she supports the school's decision.

"The ones who are kind of on the edge — ‘do I want to do this, or do I not want to do this’ — if they know that it's going to be there and know they might be subject to that, they're probably not going to do it," Aiken said.

Principal David Chupa said the decision to test students was prompted by an incident in which three honor students were suspended from school for drinking at the prom last year.

"I want (the students) to be able to say, ‘I don't want to participate in alcohol because it may cost me my high school career or it may endanger my scholarships,'" he said. "We just feel like having the availability of Breathalyzers is another of those means by which they can say no."

If a student is suspected of drinking, the test will be administered by the off-duty police officers hired for security, Chupa said.

The school also is trying to deter drinking by not allowing students to leave and re-enter the prom, Chupa said.