But is this policy going to reduce student drinking as a whole? Or, will it just reduce attendance at dances?

    Our nation’s criminal justice system is supposed to be based on the notion that we are innocent until proven guilty, but we stray from that bedrock premise far more than we’d like to admit. We’re probably secretly OK with that, as long it’s not us in the justice system’s crosshairs.

    So if you’re approving a policy that requires every student attending a dance at Crookston High School to blow into a breathalyzer, the innocent-until-proven-guilty approach is tossed out the window. But these are kids, many conclude in justifying such policies, they haven’t earned all of the rights and freedoms of adults who have paid their dues. If making every kid blow into a breathalyzer – and blow clean, of course – in order to be granted entry into a dance means they’re assumed guilty of consuming alcohol until they prove they haven’t, so be it, most conclude.

    But is it fair to force anyone, no matter their age, to prove their innocence even before they’ve provided any evidence or probable cause that might lead those in authority to investigate if they have done something that’s against the rules? Should we implement stop-and-frisk at the school entrance each morning while we’re at it, too?

    The Crookston School Board’s vote last week – yet another vote, it should be noted, on an item not included on the agenda that day and not included in meeting materials provided to the media beforehand – greenlighted the new policy making every kid arriving at a dance to blow into a “passive breathalyzer” device held in front of them. If it detects the presence of alcohol, law enforcement will be summoned to administer a more thorough breathalyzer test, and appropriate actions will then be taken, i.e. the violating kid is going to be in trouble on multiple fronts.

    Superintendent Chris Bates called the new policy a great deterrent to students who attend dances and, prior to this policy, might drink some booze first. That seems to be the case; knowing about the policy ahead of time, students who want to go to dances simply will no longer have the option of drinking beforehand. If this policy reduces student drinking before they go to a dance, it’s hard to argue with it, right? But is this policy going to reduce student drinking as a whole? Or, will it just reduce attendance at dances?

    While many people roll their eyes whenever the American Civil Liberties Union weighs in on a subject that involves citizens’ rights and freedoms being compromised, it merits mentioning that the ACLU is no fan of this approach. Reacting to a similar policy put in place previously by another Minnesota school district, the ACLU cited the Fourth Amendment and students being protected from “suspicionless searches.”

    CHS Principal Eric Bubna said he checked with legal counsel and was told the new policy is on strong legal footing. That’s likely because it’s just easier to stomach when it’s the rights and freedoms of young people being trampled on.

    It feels like someone needs to ask if this new policy is an overreaction, a solution in search of a problem. Do some students drink alcohol before dances? Absolutely...some students always have. But is this an epidemic spiraling out of control at CHS? After all, most dances already have a police presence, and that officer has a breathalyzer with him when a student exhibits behavior consistent with intoxication.

    You can be against this policy and not for illegal student consumption of alcohol, but it’s likely most shy away from speaking up in opposition because they don’t want to be accused of being pro-underage drinking. That trepidation-inspired silence on this subject is understandable, but it doesn’t make this new policy any less troubling.