RANDOLPH, N.J. – Dozens of New Jersey high schoolers were ordered from the bleachers of a recent football game and ordered to undergo blood and urine screens for alcohol after a school administrator found an empty beer can.
A Randolph High School official at last Friday’s game against Livingston High School discovered an empty beer can from the student section and ordered dozens of students out of the stands shortly before kickoff, the Daily Record reports.
“Before the game could begin, an administrator went to the front and told everyone to be quiet. He announced that he found an opened beer can on the ground that rolled to him, and that someone should confess to (whose) it was before everyone was taken in for a breathalyzer test,” Class of 2018 President Nate Pangro posted to Facebook. “No one confessed, so people went into the school each row at a time to be tested.”
School officials herded about 75 students into classrooms and called their parents. Those who picked up their kids were given two hours to test their urine or blood for alcohol at local hospitals. Those who did not comply were deemed guilty by default and faced suspension, according to NJ.com.
“Upon further investigation, several other containers of alcohol were identified,” superintendent Jennifer A. Fano wrote in a prepared statement. “There were also other indicia that the students in this section had consumed alcohol. As educators, we are charged with enforcing policy. The law requires that we send students out to be tested when it appears that they may be under the influence of drugs or alcohol.”
School board candidate Christopher C. Treston wrote on Facebook that the response from school officials was overboard.
“Sadly, some of the student body marred the evening by attending the game under the influence of alcohol,” he posted. “At least a few smuggled alcohol into the game itself, … The safety of our students and the community is indeed paramount, and action by the school administration was absolutely warranted. However, the action taken at this event was disproportionate and exposed some serious gaps in district procedures.”
Students released to their parents “proceeded to emergency rooms in Dover, Denville, Morristown and Livingston,” he wrote. “The emergency departments at Dover and at Morristown were not given any warning of what was coming, and were overwhelmed.”
He wasn’t the only one to question the clear-the-bleachers approach.
Former PTO president Sheryll Lynne Penney told the Daily Record several parents complained that their child’s rights were violated.
“The students sign a code of conduct and they need to be held accountable,” she said, “but so does the administration for handling the situation professionally.”
Treston echoed those concerns. In total, five of the roughly 75 students tested for alcohol tested positive, according to Fox News.
“Let me be very clear: teenage drinking is a serious problem, and it did in fact occur at our school on Friday night,” Treston wrote. “Our process of preventing backpacks, bottles and cans from entering the stadium broke down. In addition, some number of students arrived intoxicated. We owe it to the community to identify such students, and to protect them and the community. But, we also need to do it in a way that protects the rights and dignity of the student body. When the accused-but-innocent outnumber the guilty 16 to one, we probably did it wrong.”
Superintendent Fano seemed to disagree, though she apologized to students who tested negative. The school board will cover the alcohol test for those students, she said, while those who tested positive won’t receive reimbursement.
“On Friday evening, I also spoke with the medical professionals in Morristown, Dover and Denville who were charged with processing the student screenings,” Fano wrote on the district’s website. “The medical professionals understood that our administrators are not responsible for determining sobriety and that we were properly following the law and policy. Members of the Randolph police were at the game and effectively assisted administration in following school procedures. It is my hope that this event leads us all to reflect. School events are meant to be a time to come together, celebrate our community, and make positive memories. Friday evening was just that for many, but for some it was not.”
Randolph won the home-opener against Livingston 18-15, Lehigh Valley Live reports.