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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.
Opening Arguments

Whatever you're about to do, just stop it, OK?

A reasonable preventive measure or an unfair invasion of privacy?

A high school in Northwest Indiana is considering brethalyzing its students at senior banquets and Prom to curb underage drinking.

"Unfortunately, sometimes some of our students make some bad decisions -- and that not only puts them at risk -- but puts others at risk and we’re looking at ways to curtail this,” said Chesterton High School Principal James Goetz.

Goetz said police would train chaperones to administer the tests.

Dunno, mixed feelings. There is that whole constitutional "unreasonable search and seizure" issue, but schools and their students are not "government" and "citizens" in microcosm. Schools are structured learning environments in which there are sensible efforts to maintain that structure that wouldn't be acceptable in the larger society. And though I'm a long way from high school, I well remember the attitude of the adults in that environment. "Guilty until proven innocent" was pretty much what every teenager expects.

But my sense of fairness and justice based on everything this country stands for says that unless there is a "reasonable suspicion" I'm not playing by the rules, I get left alone. Draw a line with the law and punish me if I cross it. Don't bust my chops if you think I might cross it.

One jurisdiction in Indiana wants to step boldly into the pre-emptive-strike arena:

GREENWOOD, Ind. (AP) -- A shooting during an event at a central Indiana golf course this month has prompted local leaders to seek a crackdown on large parties.

Johnson County Sheriff Doug Cox and county attorney Kathleen Hash are working on a public nuisance ordinance that would allow the sheriff to halt large parties that could pose a safety risk to people attending or living and working nearby.

Jeez. Where do they draw the line? If I have a party with 25 people atending, is that OK? Would 26 attendees mark me as a troublemaker? Oh, while I'm thinking of it, I should go and make sure my car hasn't been towed away by the cops. The fact that I have one marks me as a potential speeder. Apprently this type of oppression is already flourishing here:

Cox said most of the events he’s targeting are advertised as under-21 dance parties but can attract gangs or involve drug and alcohol use.

The county is modeling its ordinance after one in Indianapolis, which requires event organizers to get a permit. The permit requires venues to meet safety guidelines and helps to stop locations from hosting a one-night event, Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department Detective Sgt. William Carter said.

Police can get a court order to halt the party while city and state inspectors check for violations, such as the fire code, Carter said. Police usually serve the court order the day of the party, which means the event can’t go on.

Hash said she plans to broaden the language in the Johnson County ordinance to include events that aren’t targeted at the under-21 crowd.

Uh-oh, just remembered. I saw five people standing together on the corner when I drove into work today. Better call the cops in case they're up to no good.



Posted in: Hoosier lore