RANDOLPH, NJ - The Board of Education policy committee presented the Passive Breath Alcohol Sensor Device policy for first reading, which allows building principals or staff members to determine if a student has consumed alcohol without sending students off-premise for blood testing.

When the board discussed this policy during Tuesday’s meeting, member Sheldon Epstein objected to the language of the new policy, believing it is still too vague.

In particular he questioned the statement, “the Board of Education authorizes the use of a passive breath alcohol sensor device (PBASD) in certain circumstance… as determined by the Building Principal or designee or the staff member(s) in charge of a school related or school sponsored event or activity.”

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Superintendent Jennifer Fano assured Epstein that the policy had been discussed at length in committee meetings, and the current phrasing allows flexibility in administering the device.

“The reason why it was written that way was input from other districts that are currently implementing it,” Fano said. “This is actually a tool that you would empower the staff with to make that decision [if a large number of students were under the influence], because they are not qualified medical professionals.”

Fano explained that if the device recorded anything other than a zero, staff would know to send the student out for further tests. Without this tool, staff would automatically send students out for testing, as seen on Sept. 1; this policy would be able to “limit the number of students sent out for an outside evaluation,” she said.

The policy also mentions a “systematic sampling number” for each event without qualifying how that number will be determined, and authorizes screening “before, during, and after school activities/events… or when the building principal or designee has reason to believe the use of alcohol by students may be present.”

“Nothing in here is objective,” Epstein said, voting “no” to the policy. “I just don’t understand how this will work.”

All other board members voted “yes” to the policy, and Tammy MacKay hopes it will act as a deterrent to substance abuse on school property.

“Policies are meant to be changed and updated and flexible, and grow with us,” MacKay said. “This may be the starting point, and we might find that we have to change it down the road, but it’s a start.”

Read the draft of Policy 5535 here.