Tuesday, December 04, 2007

A very odd evening

Every so often something happens that shows that I am indeed out of kilter with the times. Tonight was one such moment.

It was youngest's year 12 formal. This was our second such event.

Eldest's was held at a function centre. Most of the class were 18 or 19, an age at which age I was already in either first (18) or second year (19) university. Because some of the kids were under eighteen, all kids were banded on arrival to show whether or not they could legally drink. No band, no drink. Drinks were sold in an adjoining area away from the function centre itself. However, parents were allowed to bring drinks to their tables once purchased.

It has come to our attention that some parents intending to attend this formal have expressed their intention to demand the service of alcohol or bring it with them. From notice given to parents upon arrival.

There were the usual pre-function drinks organised by various parents. Dee and I were at work, so Clare had her hair done, got dressed and went across town to one such drinks. We picked she and her partner up and took them to the formal. Some parents had to attend, so we had agreed to do so.

On the way to the city hotel where the function was to be held, Clare said that they had just been told that all kids had to be breathalysed before entry to the function and that any one over the limit would be excluded. I must say that we thought that this was a bit outrageous.

This is a School Formal and, by definition, is a "Minors Function", therefore State Law applied to this event is very strict and complex. As a guest at this function, even parents & teachers are subject to these same rules. Nobody is exempt from security screenings and controlled access in and out of function areas. From notice given to parents upon arrival.

Upon arrival, all kids were subject to breathalyser test. Bags were checked. The kids had to hold their hands up while they were checked by a metal detector! Parents were handed a notice.

No alcohol whatsoever will be served in the function area, nor is it permitted to be brought in by any person. Any person found challenging these rules by attempting to bring in alcohol would be well advised that they would be breaking the law ...

These are not "our" policies. They are the NSW Licensing Laws and are not flexible.

Our team is extremely well trained and has complete control of the event. It's important that you set a good example for the youngsters (!) and give the staff your total cooperation at all times. Please don't challenge the staff. They know their jobs and are not unswereable to function guests. From notice given to parents upon arrival.

I fear this one was breached rather quickly in that a number of parents did challenge the breathalyser test. They were told that kids did not have to do this, but if they did not they could not enter.

A compendium of the regulations is printed on the back of your tickets if you want to clarify anything. We stand ready to answer all questions but retain full power of decision over this event. From notice given to parents upon arrival.

All this started an interesting discussion at our table while people reviewed the law. Inevitably, parents started drifting away to the bar. By 11pm, the Formal itself started to wind down as kids moved on early to the after parties or just to the bar.

Look, I know that alcohol can be an issue. I will write something about our experiences here at some point. But am I totally out of kilter when I say that all this is a bit over the top?

I must say that one of my main concerns was that kids would go on and get smashed at the after parties in response. Still, we will find out the details since I think that we have between 6 and 10 coming back here after the after parties. The intent is to stay up all night. My view is that I will find them all asleep on the floor when I get up.

As a final point, I could not resist a wry grin at the sight of a senior partner in a major law firm having her bag checked for illicit supplies!


I am not quite sure how many ended up crashing on our floor, but there seem to be a lot of bodies!

A couple of points on re-reading the post.

I should note that the notice I am referring to was prepared by the event organisers not the school. I recognise that the organisation of this type of thing is a major activity, I have done it a number of times, even more so today because of the rules, controls and insurance.

The venue itself created specific constraints.

All this said, I think that a real problem remains.


Lexcen said...

Maybe next year there will also be sniffer dogs and metal detectors. Private Security guards should also be compulsory.

Jim Belshaw said...

Good morning, Lexcen. Well, we already had the detectors and guards, so we only need to add the sniffer dogs!

macelproust said...

I don't understand the basis for a breathalyser test on the way in. What warning was given of this? And what constituted a "pass" of the test?

But it's just a local manifestation of the general tendency to exploit all technically available means of security/surveillance. The practical effect is to deprive people of that de facto degree of civil liberty which is actually made up of minor and undetectable infractions of the relevant rules or laws.

Jim Belshaw said...

From what I know no clear warning, nor was pass defined. I agree very much with your last point, Marcel.

blonde canadian said...

Thought provoking post, Jim.

At my former place of work (I can say that now!) all school functions, including valedictory, were alcohol free. That is, neither parents nor staff nor students could purchase alcohol. It worked, and without infringing upon one's privacy, either.