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Breathalyzers at prom a violation of Charter rights, court says

Ontario Court Justice Susan Himel issued a ruling Monday concluding that forcing kids to take a breathalyzer test before their prom would have contravened their Charter rights as being an unreasonable search and seizure.
Ontario Court Justice Susan Himel issued a ruling Monday concluding that forcing kids to take a breathalyzer test before their prom would have contravened their Charter rights as being an unreasonable search and seizure. Global News / File

TORONTO – High school students won’t have to take a breathalyzer in order to get into their prom, an Ontario Superior Court judge decided Monday.

Ontario Court Justice Susan Himel issued a ruling Monday concluding that forcing kids to take a breathalyzer test before their prom would have contravened their Charter rights as being an unreasonable search and seizure.

Northern Secondary School tried to make its students take a breathalyzer before attending the prom in May 2014. The school relented after students and the community complained, and two students filed the court application, which prompted Himel’s decision.

The school’s principal Ron Felsen told parents about the judge’s ruling in an email Monday, saying breathalyzers will not be used at future dances or school events. The school will however utilize other security measures including paid duty officers, security, and the checking of bags. Staff will also be tasked with using their discretion with determining whether someone is high or drunk.

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“As I have communicated to parents and students in the past, drinking prior to and at school dances and proms continues to be a concern for the school,” Felsen said in the email to parents. “The Prom is a school event. This means the principles that govern student behaviour during school hours apply to the Prom. For the time being, there will be no impact on the offering of the Prom and the school will continue to be vigilant about alcohol and drug use.”

TDSB spokesperson Ryan Bird told Global News the school board is currently not releasing a statement on the court decision.