SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – A secondary school in Oost-Brabant plans to breathalyse children in an effort to stop teenage drinking after several pupils came to class drunk.
Parents at the school, which has locations in the villages of Asten and Someren, have been informed that all 14 to 18-year-olds face being tested if they appear to be drunk in the classroom.
‘Somebody has to put the use of alcohol in this region on the agenda,’ head teacher Irma van Nieuwenhuijsen told the Volkskrant. The results of the breathalyser tests will be used as evidence that the children are drunk, and the pupils will be sent home, the head teacher said.
‘I hope that the conversation can then continue at the kitchen table,’ she added. The school head says local festivals are the main cause of the problem and children who have partied all weekend have often only had a couple of hours sleep before heading for school.
Van Nieuwenhuijsen said that crackdown on teenage drinking is part of her efforts to get people to recognise the extent of the problem in village culture. ‘If you talk about alcohol abuse, you are told not to be so wet,’ she said.
This summer 63 local children under the official drinking age of 18 were referred to social workers after being found with alcohol at two festivals in Someren.
Last year, 860 teenagers in the Netherlands ended up in hospital because they were drunk.
Most were in a coma. Researcher and paediatrician Nico van der Lely told the NRC in June that an alcohol-induced coma is like hitting a child on the head with a baseball bat.
‘If you have been that drunk twice, your IQ will drop 10 to 15 points, and that can mean a different educational level,’ he said. Around one third of teen drunks is at a vocational school, 25% at a pre-college school and 21% at a pre-university school – so the problem plays across all classes and educational levels.
Strong alcohol, such as vodka, is by far the most popular drink among teenagers. Events like the Sneek Week sailing festival and sports weekends like Hockeyloverz are ‘our main suppliers’ Van der Lely said.
‘It is not a question of addiction or an individual problem with a child,’ he said. ‘It is a problem in society.’ (DutchNews)