The policies developed by boards of education are "intended to create a positive climate in school and during extra curricular activities," Bexley school board president Diane Peterson said Tuesday.

The policies developed by boards of education are "intended to create a positive climate in school and during extra curricular activities," Bexley school board president Diane Peterson said Tuesday.

She was reflecting on the school district's proposed policy addressing the "use of alcohol detection devices." The proposal will be discussed at the board's May meeting. Earlier, the board approved the first reading of the policy and requested some clarification of the language.

"Overall I believe that the board has a general support for the policy," Peterson said.

The policy took shape a year ago, when district administrators decided to require students entering the prom to take a Breathalyzer test. The devices also are used at homecoming dances and will be used again for entrance into this year's prom on Saturday, May 3.

The proposed policy is not exclusive to alcohol, but includes administrators watching for signs of use of illegal substances such as marijuana or designer drugs.

"It allows the students one more reason to say no," Superintendent Michael Johnson said. "There's a lot of peer pressure in life and they want to attend the dance and they know they're going to be Breathalyzed."

Johnson said it was coming to the "choice between having the procedure or not having the dances," because adults monitoring the dances were noticing that some of the students were "under the influence."

"There were more than a handful that we thought were under the influence," Johnson said, "but we know that since we've used (Breathalyzers) the behaviors at the dances are exceptional."

High school principal John Kellogg said the students who test positive aren't turned away, but the situation is further investigated. Sometimes a second Breathalyzer reading shows negative results, if the positive result was caused by something like mouthwash, he said.

"I am not going to turn a student away who may be under the influence," he said. "That wouldn't be safe. This whole policy is about safety."

Jason Soll, a Bexley senior and student body president, said the policy has not hurt attendance at the dances. He said last year when the district began using the Breathalyzers he heard a lot of students talking about it, but this year he has not heard much.

"Last year it was the talk of the school. It's the progress that we needed," he said.

Prom season brings a marked increase in alcohol-related car crashes, said Doug Scoles of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

"We definitely encourage schools to take the initiative that Bexley is taking to try to make prom safe for everyone," Scoles said. "We know enforcement works, and Breathalyzers are another form of enforcement."

Johnson stressed the safety aspects of the policy.

"Every parent sends their student to an activity and they presume they're going to be safe," Johnson said. "We want to have the kind of activity that we can all live with ourselves the rest of our lives."

bbutcher@thisweeknews.com