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Needham high to use breathalyzer at games

Posted by Kathryn Eident  February 27, 2009 01:11 PM

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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:

To read more Globe coverage on the use of breathalyzes at school functions, click here.

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15 comments so far...
  1. Wow am I glad I left Needham. Sounds like big brother is watching.

    Posted by Handsome February 27, 09 02:03 PM
  1. The MIAA needs to seriously chill. Face painting outlawed? C'mon. Next thing you know, every game in every sport will end in a tie, becaue losing will be outlawed too.

    Posted by Jeremy_from_somewhere_else February 27, 09 02:20 PM
  1. When I was in high school, they didn't need fancy equipment to expel rowdy kids from the stands, they just kicked you out. You may or may not have been escorted into a police cruiser. These kids are going to be legal adults soon, some during their high school years. They should be treated like it -- both from the benefits side, as well as the repercussions side. Why do we need special rules when underage drinking is illegal already? How would this be handled if this was an inner city school? But I bet the "rules" are in place to keep Johnny or Peyton from losing their Ivy League education because they have an arrest record.

    If it's an endemic problem, the school should forfeit the game/season until people can behave.

    Posted by J February 27, 09 03:01 PM
  1. How much does a breathalyzer cost? I agree with a previous poster, why don't they kick them out of the game and arrest them? That usually works effectively. Kids are going drink regardless, they just won't go to the sporting events or drink after. At least they have place to to and sober up for a few hours.. No face paint? You can't call the goaltender a sieve? What is going in this state? Is this related to the fairness doctrine?

    Posted by Steve B. February 27, 09 03:41 PM
  1. As an alum of NHS, I am really saddened to hear what is going on at my old high school. I understand kids need to behave and stay in control, but no face paint, breathalyzers, no signs? They are high school kids!! That is the saddest thing I have ever heard. When I was at NHS, the hockey team was in the Super 8, like they will be this coming weekend, and it was a really big deal...sold out arena's, excited (and rowdy) fans...if you were out of control, you were asked to leave and school disciplinary action was taken, but this just goes beyond extreme. Kids will be kids, but these school officials have crossed the line and sucked all the fun out of being a HS kid. What are they going to take away next?

    Posted by e February 27, 09 04:21 PM
  1. Needham ought to use breathalyzers at school committee and principals meetings if this is the type of decisions they make

    Posted by AC February 27, 09 05:00 PM
  1. And they wonder why kids are drinking out in the woods and falling into lakes and streams. . .I thought the 90's were bad. . .i'm so glad I am not going to high school today. . .

    Posted by swampfox February 27, 09 05:01 PM

  1. Remember Gilllette before the Kraft"s? Gameday was a war zone. Now it's a place one can take his family (if you can afford it ). The MIAA needs professional advice on how to exercise crowd control. Banning face painting is absurd! Breathalyzers.........What is this country coming to? It's enough to make me a liberal!

    Posted by reeldoc1 February 27, 09 05:40 PM
  1. Jeez Needham, its hockey for crying out loud

    Posted by Lee February 27, 09 05:47 PM
  1. BINGO, Lee. And freedom of speech, expression, and the right to support your school team(s). Let's not promote the venue which would have a droll crowd sitting on their hands like cardboard cutouts.....Someone in MIAA must have been steamrolled in their high school days by a Needham squad.

    Posted by r February 27, 09 06:09 PM
  1. Needham parents should take note . There is a serious problem and the responsibility belongs at the home , not the school.....

    Posted by Thomas Broderick February 27, 09 06:53 PM
  1. Besides face-painting, I hear that dancing, rock n' roll music, and other works of the devil may also distract these impressionable young students (if not lead them toward a life of crime and drug addiction). Glad to see the administrators at Needham and the MIAA are doing such a great job!

    Posted by zzzzz February 27, 09 11:57 PM
  1. The drinking age should be lowered to 18 in any case as it is most of the rest of the civilized world. But any behavior which endangers others' safety should be dealt with accordingly either by the school or the police.

    Posted by Chris February 28, 09 01:03 AM
  1. to the woodshed

    Posted by brendan March 3, 09 12:04 PM
  1. As a Needham property owner and alumae I am appalled at 1) Lack of responsiblity of the parents 2) Tunnel vision of the individuals who authorized this. Needham used to be a "nice" town where people stopped to let you walk across the street. Not anymore...Get a grip people!

    Posted by M March 4, 09 02:28 PM