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Last Dance: A Parent's Guide to Prom Night

Pushing the Limits
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While there's been an overall decline in teen alcohol use in recent years, prom night can be a game changer, even for kids who wouldn't normally drink. Think of prom as a teen's version of a trip to Vegas—everyday rules don't apply—and some students consider alcohol a standard part of the end-of-year celebration.

In light of this, parents, schools, and police have been working together to keep kids sober and out of harm's way. Kids may be greeted at the event's entrance by Breathalyzers, security wands, and bag searches to deter alcohol or drug use or possession. Some schools institute lockdown policies that prohibit teens from leaving until the event is over to ensure constant supervision. Last year in upstate New York a school held its junior and senior proms on Wednesday night and Sunday night and required next-day attendance to keep kids from indulging.

But teens still find ways to party, whether it's "pre-gaming" by drinking alcohol beforehand or sneaking in bottles or flasks that go undetected during bag check. Even Breathalyzer tests aren't a guarantee that drinking won't occur as the night goes on. In 2009 a Boston-area senior crashed his car while driving home the morning after prom, killing a woman. The prom had Breathalyzers at the door, but the dance was followed by an overnight cruise. During the night the student managed to consume numerous beers, police said. And last year an intoxicated Ohio high school senior was arrested and charged with assaulting a police officer at the dance.