St. Charles graduating seniors forced to take breathalyzer exam during last school day

Categories: Education, Law
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St. Charles seniors were treated like suspected criminals before their commencement rehearsal.
A group of St. Charles High School seniors were having some drinks at a bonfire last Thursday, the night before their last day of class.

Sounds like fairly normal behavior, doesn't it? But a controversy is raging over how school administrators handled the situation when some seniors showed up for their last day seemingly still under the influence.

Prior to the commencement ceremony rehearsal, administrators called in police to administer breathalyzer exams to all 74 graduating seniors. Now, some parents are threatening a lawsuit against the southeastern Minnesota school, alleging that the blood alcohol exams violated students' Fourth Amendment rights.

Said parent Jim Welp: "This is the constitution of the United States of America -- they must not teach that very well in school. Maybe the teachers forgot about it."

But superintendent Mark Roubinek says his hand was forced. He says that morning, he and other school officials grew concerned about a number of seniors -- "much larger than a few kids" -- who had apparently showed up to school still intoxicated from the previous night's bender. Officials became worried the students might drove home drunk from school after the rehearsal.
Mark Roubinek.jpg
Roubinek is under fire for making all seniors take breathalyzers, not just those who showed signs of intoxication.

"It was a bad situation -- it would've been a terrible situation if some kids would've gotten hurt or killed," Roubinek said.

So the cops were called and breathalyzers were administered. And while Roubinek has declined to disclose exactly how many tested positive for alcohol, he says it was in the double digits.

Those who tested positive faced "a consequence" on Saturday -- Roubinek didn't disclose exactly what the underage drinkers had to do to to atone -- but everyone was allowed to graduate with the rest of their class on Sunday.

But that's not good enough for Welp. When his son called him from school on Friday to tell him he'd been breathalyzed, Welp immediately hopped in his vehicle and drove to the school. He questioned officials about their authority to administer the breathalyzers.

"They said they did [have authority], I said 'you don't,' I said you have to have probable cause," Welp said. And while they may have probable cause to test some seemingly intoxicated students, Welp doesn't believe officials had the right to breathalyze students like his son, who tested negative. 

"They're all good kids, and everybody has mistakes they've done in their life," Welp said. "I think the way [the school] handled it was completely wrong."


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21 comments
Jns2u
Jns2u

First of all,  teens drinking underage is illegal no matter how you look at it!  When they are busted at a party, they ALL get breathalyzed. The kids under 18 have to call their parents to pick them up.  Over 18 they have to find a sober driver to take them home. The kids that did not drink get to go.  I see nothing wrong with what the school officials did.  The kids that were caught with alcohol on their breath broke the law, plain and simple.  The parents trying to protect the kids are in the wrong.  You can only protect kids for so long.  They have to learn to take responsibility for their actions. The kids that had to be breathalyzed that weren't drinking, what is the big deal?  They should have nothing to hide.  I have always told my kids "my house, my rules"  In this case it's the school's administrators school, their rules.  Break the rules and suffer the consquences.  Stop trying to make more out of this than what it is.  It sounds more like the parents' pride that got hurt more than anything.  Suck it up and disciplilne your kid. 

East Coast Doug
East Coast Doug

This is what you get with government schools.  It's painfully obvious that our government views everything as a risk or threat.  The police have become a para-military organization bent on tasing grandma's to giving out tickets for not wearing a seatbelt.  We have lost our freedoms in schools, airports, bus terminals, cameras everywhere, all in the name of protecting us, saving us from terror.   When in reality our government is the number one cause of terror.

jon
jon

I think they should have contacted the parents first.  The minors that appeared to be intoxicated should have been pulled form class and a waited there parents arrival.

I have some insight to this issue.  From what I was told a lot of the kids had left there cars at the party location and had not yet picked up there cars.  

I don't understand how they can call an assembly and then force all the kids to a breathalyzer.  If the kid is under 18 (in this situation) do they not have to contact the parent for permission before they question and or perform any action.  If the child has not driven or has no car there and they are causing no harem what right do they have to test them.

I do understand testing the ones behind the wheel of a car.  I do not wish for any one to get hurt or die.  If they got behind a wheel of a car they should of been given a DUI (with the proper stop).

It appears that that the school and the police could have done a better job with this situation.  The parents of the kids at the party could have done a better job as well.  If my child comes home intoxicated I will take the car keys a way for a long time.  

We all must remember that we were kids once to and we all did some of the same things and this is how we grow into the people we are today.

Thank you.                

Anjh
Anjh

It is truly unfortunate that these things can no longer be handled without bringing the law enforcement and lawyers into the situation.  In the day, parents and educators were more often on the same page.  The school enforced the rules and the parents re-enforced them. No longer true.  An ugly fact of the litigious society we've created. So misguided parents will fight for the God-given right to send their foolish children out into the world with legal permission to put themselves in harm's way. Who takes the responsibility when those "just teenagers" having "just a few" drinks have one of their all-too-frequent deadly spring auto accidents? It's less a legal issue, folks, and more a safety issue.

amiller92
amiller92

The strange bit to me here is that police involvement.  I don't have much doubt that a school administrator would think he is empowered to do this, but I would think the police would know better.  Especially here, where the stated concern isn't about school administration but potential for law-breaking outside of school.

That said, the Supreme Court seems to regularly expand the schools' ability to control students, so maybe they will be proved right in the end.

Uncool Adult
Uncool Adult

 It sounds like the school was being responsible making sure no kids drove home drunk. Jesus, teenagers are horrible enough drivers when their sober. And it isn't as though they withheld any diplomas or put anything on their police record. The kids were probably drinking some shitty Keystone Light or something like that anyways, which itself deserves punishment.

Myrtle
Myrtle

Actually, though I am sympathetic with him, the kid's dad is wrong.  You don't need probable cause, you need 'reasonable suspicion' to administer the alocohol test.  Unlikely that he will prevail in a lawsuit against the school, there are precedents in the 6th and 4th circuit courts which suggest that school administrators have reasonable suspicion when there is evidence of drinking by a group of students, and that courts favor administering tests to an entire class in those circumstances rather than singling out individuals by relying on their suspicions.

Mike W.
Mike W.

The only students who should have been administered the breathalyzer test should have been the ones who displayed signs of intoxication, which in the case of teens is usually pretty easy to spot.  So what would have school officials done to those who refused?  Arrested them?  On what charge?

Stenny
Stenny

Thank you, East Coast Doug!  I agree completely!

I am sick of the government telling me how to drive.  Who the hell are they to say when I can stop and when I can go?  Or when I can drink and when I can't?  What business is of theirs if I want to have a couple of beers before I drive home?

If I can legally carry my handgun here and I can legally carry my handgun at my home in Alabama, then why the hell can't I carry that gun when I fly between the two places?  I am not a Muslim.

Bob
Bob

They can not make or force these kids to take the test. They all should have refused.

ludwigtr
ludwigtr

...What?

It seems to me the school admin knows his role exactly.  Suspected some students of being drunk at school, called the cops to curb a drunk driving incident...  Explain how that is a bad thing, please.

Meg Nathan
Meg Nathan

And what about those kids who ARE still under the influence, but not "visibly impaired"?  If one of them drove home and crashed, you'd probably be one of the first ones to scream about suing the school district!  It is a no-win situation for the school administrators.  Somebody's parents are always going to get their undies in a bunch, no matter what you do.  At least this way they took ample care to ensure nobody was driving drunk.  They didn't prevent them from graduating - although I kind of think they should have.  Graduation, after all, is supposed to be a 'coming of age' ceremony where you are acknowledged to have achieved adult maturity.  This behavior does not demonstrate that to me.  If I had been the principal, I would have made them take a class or two over the summer as punishment before allowing them to get their diploma.  It would have cut into their "party time"...but I believe the point would have hit home a little harder.

Joe
Joe

No.  You are a dipshit.  See the difference?

East Coast Doug
East Coast Doug

Knows his role as a mindless dictator, but not the US Constitution.  There is not a legal way that he can force the young adults to take any kind of test.

amiller92
amiller92

I heard someone at your employer is intoxicated and may drive.  I call the cops.  Can they come in and give everyone a breathalizer?  Why not?

Myrtle, below, is probably correct that courts would be sympathetic to this sort of mass invasion of privacy in a school setting, but that doesn't mean we should like it.

Anyway, it's not the calling the cops that's the issue.  It's the treating all of the kids like they are suspects.

Bon
Bon

Graduation is a "coming of age ceremony"? I was under the impression that 'coming of age' happens when you turn 18, which may or for some may not be the year they graduate. I completely agree with amiller92.

Mike W.
Mike W.

 Again I ask the question, what would have happened to the kids who refused?  Would they be arrested?  Would they be denied participation in the graduation ceremony.

amiller92
amiller92

Two things:

1.  Graduation is not a "coming of age ceremony."  It's a recognition of having completed the required course work to earn the degree.

2.  More importantly, your's is exactly the type of thinking that has eviscerated our civil liberties under the fourth amendment.  You seem to be saying that the bad thing we want to prevent is so bad that we should ignore any concerns about privacy and freedom from government intrusion.  That's not the way it's supposed to work, in my opinion.

amiller92
amiller92

I think your frustration is misplaced. I'm not criticizing the school administrator for taking action.  I'm questioning whether the correct action was taken.

But do you think your alternative facts change the answer?  Fine, I think 30% of your workforce is drunk and 50% were illegally drinking last night.  Now can the cops breathalize everyone?  Probably not.

Or, more accurately, they can but any charges they seek to bring may be dismissed because of the illegal search.

ludwigtr
ludwigtr

do you suspect 30% of my workforce being drunk?  Do you know more than 50% of my workforce attended a party where alcohol was consumed illegally last night?Yeah, please do that if your suspicions are that great and substantiated.  Kids that didn't die in drunk driving accidents will probably thank you.

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