St. Charles graduating seniors forced to take breathalyzer exam during last school day

A group of St. Charles High School seniors were having some drinks at a bonfire last Thursday, the night before their last day of class.

Sounds like fairly normal behavior, doesn't it? But a controversy is raging over how school administrators handled the situation when some seniors showed up for their last day seemingly still under the influence.

Prior to the commencement ceremony rehearsal, administrators called in police to administer breathalyzer exams to all 74 graduating seniors. Now, some parents are threatening a lawsuit against the southeastern Minnesota school, alleging that the blood alcohol exams violated students' Fourth Amendment rights.

Said parent Jim Welp: "This is the constitution of the United States of America -- they must not teach that very well in school. Maybe the teachers forgot about it."

But superintendent Mark Roubinek says his hand was forced. He says that morning, he and other school officials grew concerned about a number of seniors -- "much larger than a few kids" -- who had apparently showed up to school still intoxicated from the previous night's bender. Officials became worried the students might drove home drunk from school after the rehearsal.

Roubinek is under fire for making all seniors take breathalyzers, not just those who showed signs of intoxication.
Roubinek is under fire for making all seniors take breathalyzers, not just those who showed signs of intoxication.

"It was a bad situation -- it would've been a terrible situation if some kids would've gotten hurt or killed," Roubinek said.

So the cops were called and breathalyzers were administered. And while Roubinek has declined to disclose exactly how many tested positive for alcohol, he says it was in the double digits.

Those who tested positive faced "a consequence" on Saturday -- Roubinek didn't disclose exactly what the underage drinkers had to do to to atone -- but everyone was allowed to graduate with the rest of their class on Sunday.

But that's not good enough for Welp. When his son called him from school on Friday to tell him he'd been breathalyzed, Welp immediately hopped in his vehicle and drove to the school. He questioned officials about their authority to administer the breathalyzers.

"They said they did [have authority], I said 'you don't,' I said you have to have probable cause," Welp said. And while they may have probable cause to test some seemingly intoxicated students, Welp doesn't believe officials had the right to breathalyze students like his son, who tested negative. 

"They're all good kids, and everybody has mistakes they've done in their life," Welp said. "I think the way [the school] handled it was completely wrong."

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