By Kathryn Eident, Globe Correspondent
Needham High School Principal Paul Richards told parents and students Friday that school officials will use a breathalyzer to enforce anti-drinking rules at upcoming tournament hockey and basketball games.
School officials will privately screen students who appear to be intoxicated as part of the school’s ongoing effort to curb rowdy student-fan behavior at sporting events, Richards said in an email to the high school community.
“The school will continue its supervisory approaches into the playoffs and we hope to see both new fans and the die-hards in the stands. The administration will also bring a breathalyzer to the games and privately screen any students suspected of being under the influence (hopefully, we won't have to administer the test),” Richards wrote.
The principal also cited a state high school rule that bans face painting and other behavior at games. "The MIAA does not permit face painting, signs, noise makers, hat throwing, bare midriffs, and other behaviors or items that may distract the players or referees,'' Richards wrote.
Needham is not the first town to utilize breathalyzers at school events. A growing number of high schools are now using breathalyzers, testing students they believe to be intoxicated or sometimes testing every single student to make sure no one has been drinking. At Winchester High School dances, parents are required to sign in their students at the door. And many schools have adopted zero-tolerance policies.
Following recent incidents at football games at Westwood High School and Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School last fall, administrators at those schools not only suspended students but changed school policies, restricting what students can bring to games and even requiring them, on one occasion, to be accompanied by chaperones.
Needham students were suspended for one regular season game in January for raucous behavior against arch-rival Wellesley earlier in the season. The Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association reprimanded Needham fans last fall for poor sportsmanship at varsity hockey games, prompting Needham school officials to install additional crowd monitors at games and add new language to the student handbook.
“We believe the high school community has responded very well to the challenge and that we can deem the situation a ‘success,’ one that could not have been possible without students, parents, and teachers/administrators working together,” Richards wrote in Friday’s email.
The Needham boys and girls basketball teams will be competing in post-season match-ups, as will the boys’ varsity hockey team.
To see an MIAA report card from a recent boys’ hockey game against Weymouth, click: http://nhs.needham.k12.ma.us/sports_act/Fan-C/index.html
To read more Globe coverage on the use of breathalyzes at school functions, click here.
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