Court nixes school prom breathalyzers

The Superior Court ruled Monday that plans by Northern Secondary School to give breathalyzer tests to students entering their prom last spring violated their rights held by the Canadian Charter.

Ron Felsen, principal of the Mt. Pleasant Road and Eglinton Avenue East area school, came up with the idea in response to alcohol-related incidents during previous school dances. A challenge to the decision was brought before the court by now-former students Simon Gillies and Brett Gorski.

While the court decision didn’t go as he had hoped, Felsen said today he will accept it.

“I was hopeful it would be a different outcome, but I do respect the decision,” he said.

Felsen announced last April the school would use breathalyzers before prom, after several incidents involving students consuming alcohol before and during school dances had, in some cases, seen students sent home or taken to hospital.

However, the school did not act on the plans to use breathalyzers at last year’s prom, because Gillies and Gorski had already filed their application with the Superior Court by time prom came around.

“We decided that since the matter was pretty significant in terms of constitutional law, it would be prudent to hold off,” Felsen said.

He said his main concern when instituting the use of breathalyzers was student safety, and that continues to be so.

“The same rules that govern school days apply to school events after hours or outside of school,” Felsen said. “Certainly we don’t want students to come to school intoxicated and we don’t want them to come to dances intoxicated.”

Felsen said he plans to continue the message to students that “prom is a rite of passage.”

“We want students to enjoy their prom, but we want them to enjoy it within the law,” he said. “That means they’re going to come sober and we’re going to make it a night to remember for the right reasons.”