Sunday, March 7, 2021

Students sue who missed prom waiting for alcohol test


Students at a Florida high school are suing the school, the district, and the county sheriff because they were unable to attend their prom due to being detained to take a breathalyzer test, according to the lawsuit filed in the US District Court for the Southern District of Florida on May 23.

A group of 38 students rented a bus on Saturday, May 3, to go to the prom at Jensen Beach High School in Martin County. When they boarded the bus, they noted that it was “filthy,” but they didn’t see an empty champagne bottle in it. At about 10:15, upon arriving at the school, the resource officer, identified simply as Officer Brush because he was, at all times, acting under color of law and in his official capacity as a sworn peace officer, told the students the bus would be searched before any of them were allowed into the prom.

He, of course, found the champagne bottle and determined he would give each student a breathalyzer test. However, since the prom was not held at the school, he only had two breathalyzer sticks with him. He sent Lorie Kane, dean of students, back to the school to get more breathalyzer sticks. She returned in about an hour, and each student was breathalyzed. The process took between two and four minutes for each student, and testing concluded at about 11:55 PM. The prom ended at midnight.

Students were not allowed to go to the bathroom, call their parents, or just pick up and go home—not to mention going to the prom—until all 38 breathalyzer tests had been administered. Although every student denied any knowledge or ownership of the champagne bottle, all were tested. All had a blood-alcohol level, according to the lawsuit, of 0.00 percent alcohol by volume.

The lawsuit claims the school and those officiating at prom violated the students’ rights. There was no evidence indicating the need for a search or to conduct a blood-alcohol level test, despite students’ signing of a zero-tolerance form. In the form, students acknowledged they could be subject to such a test.

The lawsuit contains five counts, mainly involving Fourth-Amendment claims that the search of the bus was unreasonable and that district’s breath testing policy is unconstitutional. Even if testing is constitutional, the plaintiffs claim the testing, as applied to the students in this case, was unreasonable and unconstitutional due to the conditions of the search and the lack of evidence.

Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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