School board concludes wand debate with a ‘no’
By Brielle Schaeffer, Jackson Hole, Wyoming
October 12, 2012
School trustees rejected a proposal Wednesday to use alcohol-sensing devices on students at school activities.
Several trustees said they feared use of the alcohol-testing devices would ruin trust between students and administrators.
The proposal failed 4-3, bringing 16 months of debate to a surprising close.
Teton County School District No. 1 Trustees Kate Mead, Paul D’Amours, Robbi Farrow and Greg Dennis voted against the alcohol wands. Trustees Janine Teske, Carlen Carney and Cherie Hawley voted in favor.
The proposal, approved by the board twice before, would have covered extracurricular activities like dances and sporting events.
Farrow, who voted for the proposal during previous readings, spoke against using alcohol wands because they could hurt relationships between students and adults.
“I question the message we might be giving,” she said. “Success for students in school is relating to trust in the environment.”
A dozen parents, students and community members spoke in favor of the wands, saying they could save lives and teach students to be law-abiding citizens. Only one attendee, school board candidate Joe Larrow, spoke against the wands.
People who commented had valid concerns, board member Farrow said after the meeting.
“I believe very much we have students that are capable to do the right thing,” she said.
Superintendent Pam Shea said the rejection was about the method, and not about being reluctant to deal with student drinking.
“This does not indicate being soft about alcohol or an illegal drug issue,” Shea said shortly after the vote, when displeased attendees got up to leave.
The district has an existing alcohol and drug policy, she said. Administrators will continue to implement it.
Extracurricular activities are a privilege and not a right, Shea said. Dances continue to be earned by student behavior, she added.
The idea that the wands could save lives was rejected by wand opponent D’Amours.
“There is a presupposition in this discussion that these devices are going to make dances safer and kids safer,” he said.
But the device would do only what it was designed to do, D’Amours said: to detect the presence of alcohol.
There is no relation between dances and student deaths, he contended.
Dennis, who chose not to comment during the meeting, wasn’t present for the last vote on the alcohol wand policy.
The board has had a “year of comments,” he said after the meeting. “There’s nothing going to be said tonight that would change anybody’s mind,” he added.
The board had worked on the alcohol wand policy since June 2011, when parents petitioned for the devices.