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After ACLU complaint, alcohol breath test uninvited to Perham prom

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The tuxedo ... the corsage ... the King and Queen and their court ... the alcohol test ...

Wait, scratch that last one from the prom memory bank. Students and their guests attending Saturday's prom in Perham will not be subjected to a breath test, after all.

The Perham Focus reports organizers of the high school prom have changed their minds about their plan to ensure the sobriety of prom attendees. The decision came after a talk with the school district attorney inspired by a letter from the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota.

Word spread quickly last week that the school in Otter Tail County planned breath tests as a way to detect any underage drinking by those attending the prom.

This week the ACLU argued that subjecting students to such testing implied that they were guilty until proven innocent. The organization sent a letter to the superintendent of the Perham-Dent school district, Mitch Anderson, reminding him that the U.S. and Minnesota Constitutions protect Americans from searches unless there is reasonable suspicion that a law was violated. Anderson tells the Focus prom organizers decided soon after receiving the ACLU's letter to skip the alcohol test and rely on chaperones and security guards to spot any students who've been drinking.

Anderson says the plan never involved having students breathe into a device. Instead, prom guests would have filed past a sensor that can detect alcohol in the air.

Forum News Service checked with school districts in the Fargo-Moorhead area and found that use of such passive screening devices – and in some cases Breathalyzers – is not uncommon at high school events.

The legal director of the ACLU-MN told the news service the group is pleased that the Perham district reconsidered its plan to test students.

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