(CNN) — It wasn’t a matter of “all dressed up and no place to go” for a group of Florida high schoolers. Rather, it was more that they were all dressed up and told they couldn’t go — until they took sobriety tests.
Forty students from Jensen Beach High School booked a private charter bus, or party bus, to take them to prom. When they arrived, they were told they couldn’t go inside because a champagne bottle and some cups had been found on the bus, said Michele Blanco, spokesman for the Martin County School District.
“The students had all signed a zero-tolerance policy for prom that said they could be Breathalyzed if there was reasonable suspicion,” Blanco said.
So the students lined up for their sobriety tests. Each of the 40 students tested negative, Blanco said. But by the time the tests were completed, it was too late to go inside, the students say.
Admittedly, they were running late for the event, which kicked off at 8 p.m. Prom finished at midnight, Blanco said.
There’s debate between the school and students on how long the procedure took, but at least one student says they arrived around 10:30 p.m. and were finished with the Breathalyzers by about 11:45 — roughly in line with the school’s timeline of events.
“When we pulled up, it was 10:30. By the time they got the Breathalyzers, it was 11. I got done at 11:47,” student Kaelyn Drazkowski, 18, told CNN affiliate WPTV.
Drazkowski further said it was disappointing that school officials didn’t even apologize. Her mother concurred, saying the students worked hard to graduate, paid a lot of money to attend prom and the school “made them feel like criminals.”
Lyn Drazkowski said she condones the school’s policy and process, but the champagne bottle was dry, shoved behind a booth on the bus. As their classmates were entering and exiting prom, they passed by Kaelyn Drazkowski and her pals, which was humiliating for the group.
“My daughter comes home and cries herself to sleep,” Lyn Drazkowski told CNN. “It’s a night that she’ll never get back.”
Student Cassidy Bass told WPTV that they pleaded with school officials to no avail.
“We said, ‘It’s not ours.’ Every single person would vouch and say, ‘It’s not mine.’ And they just didn’t believe us,” she said.
Her father told CNN he has no problem with the school’s zero-tolerance policy, but he feels school officials went overboard. These are good kids, he said.
“(The students) knew they could be Breathalyzed and purses searched. They knew a school resource officer would go on the bus. They knew it in advance. Why would they spend money to go on the bus and risk it all for one empty bottle?” Doug Bass asked.
Students told WPTV that some of the bus’s occupants were disciplined for using foul language and complaining about tests and about missing the prom.
School officials had the Breathalyzers on hand, which Blanco called “unfortunate, but it’s necessary to ensure the safety” of the 600 students who attended prom. She said if the champagne bottle was left on the bus by one of the charter company’s previous clients, that should be addressed with the bus company.
“Safety is priority. We understand that parents invested money. This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but safety will always come first,” Blanco said.
Doug Bass said the problem isn’t that school officials tested the students; it’s that they barred them from entering the prom even after it became clear the kids weren’t drinking.
“When they start testing them, and no one is showing they have any alcohol in their system, that’s a bit much,” he said. “You only get one senior prom — and 40 of those kids didn’t.”
Added parent Elliot Ziegler in a WPTV interview: “They are never going to have it. You can’t re-create it.”
CNN’s Suzanne Presto and Eliott C. McLaughlin contributed to this report.
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