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Legislation would require absolute sobriety in schools

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Pedro Oliveira Jr.
January 10, 2010
— A proposal by Sen. Neal Kedzie that would make it illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to be on school grounds while intoxicated is getting a lukewarm reception from some Walworth County school officials.

Kedzie, R-Elkhorn, said his bill would eliminate a loophole.


It’s legal in Wisconsin for a person younger than 21 to drink with a parent or legal guardian. That gives intoxicated students who attend school functions a pretty good chance of beating an underage drinking ticket, Kedzie said.


“This issue was brought to my attention by the case of an intoxicated student who attended a school function and was issued a citation only to find the citation was dismissed because the student's parents had provided the alcohol,” he said.


School officials said most schools already are drug- and alcohol-free zones, and some have police liaison officers who work with intoxicated students.


“Coming to school or a school activity (while intoxicated) is a violation of school rules,” said Greg Wescott, Elkhorn School District administrator. “Students are excused from extra curricular activities as well as given tickets if they come in that circumstance.”


Rick Penniston, principal at East Troy High School, said his school has policies to deal with alcohol and drugs, and school staff are capable of recognizing intoxicated students and dealing with them.


Students can be suspended and expelled without the assistance of new legislation, he said.


“We also have a police liaison officer,” Penniston added. “Anytime we have an issue with possession of drugs or students under the influence, it's always referred to our police liaison.”


Still, the school officials said the bill could be one more tool to enforce absolute sobriety on school grounds.


Kedzie said he doesn't agree with allowing people under the legal drinking age to have a drink. But that's the reality of state law, and he can't stop students from having a beer with their parents.


But if that happens, Kedzie said, students should be barred from school grounds and activities.


“I believe it's in the best interest of everyone for their own safety and the safety of others,” he said.


Wescott said the proposed legislation likely wouldn’t fix the problem of students attending school activities while intoxicated, but it might help.


“If by enacting the law would cause a student or parent to think twice about drinking, I don't know that it would be a bad thing,” the administrator said. “Do I see it being the answer? No, I don't think it will be.


“We already have consequences that students face if indeed they come to school or an extracurricular activity under the influence,” he said. “But it certainly would be one more tool.”



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