February dance cancelled over Halloween alcohol problems
By Jeff Reaburn
Two weeks ago we held a Career Week at South Huron to promote awareness among the students of the many career options open to them, especially the careers available right here in Huron County. The Career Week was sponsored by the School Council and funded by a Parents Reaching Out grant that the School Council received from the Ministry of Education. Over the course of the week, students attended sessions on small business and entrepreneurship, future opportunities in Huron County, apprenticeships and non-traditional careers, financial planning, private colleges, a career fair, and opportunities in agriculture.
I would like to thank the many individuals from local businesses, industries, and institutions who gave of their time in support of this venture. The afternoon sessions were very well attended and I think the students learned a great deal from them. I know that I learned more about career opportunities in Huron in this one week than I have in many, many years, and we are very grateful to all the individuals who took the time to share their expertise with us. Unfortunately, with the exception of the session on post-secondary financing, the evening sessions were not very well attended, but the information provided at these sessions was extremely valuable.
I would like to thank as well the many teachers who gave up class time to bring their classes to the afternoon sessions, and to Isaac Moore, Warren Elder, and Mitch Boyle, who helped us every day with the sound system and presentation technology. Finally, I would like to thank Jim Brintnell and Karen Brown of the School Council for their hard work and support in organizing, promoting, and running the Career Week activities.
On a less than positive note, we had some disappointing behaviour at our Halloween Dance last week. A number of students chose to smuggle alcohol into the dance and were drinking while attending the dance. Several students were caught and have been suspended from school. However, we have pretty reliable information that there were many more who escaped detection, some of whom were identified but left the dance when they realized that some of their peers had been found out. This incident has disappointed me greatly and has caused me to re-evaluate several aspects of our school dances and our methods of supervision. As you may know, we have police at our dances and one of the things that they routinely do is check bags and backpacks as students are entering the school. We also have breathalysers that we use at the door. Sometimes we breathalyse everyone, a practice for which we and several other schools have been criticized, and at other times we do random sampling. In fact, one of the reasons that I chose to get breathalysers in the first place was due to parent complaints when their children were suspended that many others were drinking as well, and why weren’t they caught and suspended?
As well, staff members circulate in the gym and in the halls around the gym to monitor student behaviour during the dance. They also check the bathrooms periodically, but this practice often results in complaints from students who feel that their privacy is being violated. Perhaps now they will understand why we need to do so.
Despite all these precautions, some students did smuggle alcohol into the dance, which was probably made easier due to the fact that this was a costume dance. As I indicated to several people following this incident, if we reach the point where we have to search students and breathalyse them on the way out as well as on the way in, then it is time to discuss why we are having dances in the first place.
As a result of this incident, I have cancelled the dance scheduled for February, and we will be breathalysing everyone who attends dances in the future. As well, there will be no more costume dances. This may seem a harsh reaction and it does penalize students who did nothing wrong, but I feel the need to send a statement to the student body on this issue. Should we continue to have problems of this nature, then we will have to consider not having dances at all.
The Provincial Code of Conduct is very clear – students are not to attend school functions under the influence of alcohol, and suspension is the recommended consequence. In fact, if a student is caught supplying alcohol to another student, then the principal must consider an expulsion. Please note that it does say “consider,” but students need to be aware that this is a possible consequence should they be caught in such a situation. Hopefully, this is not a decision I will ever have to consider.