The Post-Bulletin reports that parents of a number of graduating seniors at St. Charles High School are considering filing a lawsuit, after their children were given breath tests at school for alcohol consumption. St. Charles Police Chief Bill Eckles said the incident is under investigation, and some reports have been given to the Winona County Attorney’s Office for consideration of charges.
According to St. Charles schools Superintendent Mark Roubinek, the approximately 74 seniors who were tested participated in the school’s graduation ceremony. “All students participated in the ceremony,” Roubinek said. “Those who needed to completed the consequences and accountability. It’s a good class, a good group of seniors.”
The incident began when students arrived at school on Friday morning and staff observed a number of students who showed signs of being under the influence of alcohol, Roubinek said. “There was concern about the number of students initially observed — much larger than a few kids — and the concern that they were not only under the influence, but they would be leaving school shortly after graduation practice,” Roubinek said.
According to Roubinek, school officials called law enforcement to assist with the situation. Each student met with law enforcement individually, Roubinek said. He declined to provide more information on what happened.
Parent Jim Welp claims that about seven or eight seniors failed the test, but that number was not confirmed by authorities. According to Welp, students were called up one by one onto the stage and tested in a room to the side of the stage. Welp left with his student, but then later returned. Upon their return, Welp reported seeing several more law enforcement vehicles, from Olmstead County, the Minnesota State Patrol, and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
G. Paul Beaumaster, Rice County Attorney and president of the Minnesota County Attorneys Association, said officers can use probable cause that a person is under the influence to arrest or administer a sobriety test.
“Not having seen the reports, you can certainly ask if an underage person showed signs of consumption and you can investigate or test,” Beaumaster said. “The reports will be important to determine if probable cause existed.”
Welp says he and other parents have contacted attorneys. He added some parents will attend the school board’s June 11 meeting to state their objection to the tests. “The kids have already admitted they were drinking,” Welp said. “That’s why they got caught.… I can understand doing locker searches and whatnot, but they cannot do an alcohol test on every kid that was in there.”
Source: The Post-Bulletin, 6/6/12, By Jeffrey Pieters; Mike Dougherty and John Weiss contributors
[Editor's Note: In February 2011, Legal Clips summarized an Associated Press article in the Columbus Dispatch , which reported that Medina High School had planned to use breathalyzers to conduct random testing of students attending school dances. School district Superintendent Randy Stepp had stated that students who appeared to have been drinking would also be tested. The school had reserved the right to test all dance attendees. The superintendent also noted that if a breath test had indicated alcohol use, the student would have been barred from the dance and could have been subject to law-enforcement action.]