Valley schools back alcohol ban, principals say

Some Latrobe Valley school principals say the community supports an alcohol ban at student-attended school events.

The comments follow a Monash Rural Health study for VicHealth which reported principals faced serious challenges when trying to monitor alcohol consumption by adults at school events, such as graduation ceremonies, fundraisers and debutante balls.

Lead researcher Bernadette Ward said one of the principals surveyed reported receiving death threats from a parent over the school’s policy to run a dry deb ball.

“The situation became so ugly, the school stopped running deb balls,” Dr Ward said.

In Victoria the decision whether to serve alcohol at school events rests with the principal or school council. On the contrary, in New South Wales the government has banned alcohol consumption at all school events.

The Monash report recommends considering a state-wide ban to be implemented across Victoria, but local principals say they are proactive in their approach against alcohol consumption.

Kurnai College principal Anthony Rodaughan said the study – based on the responses of 14 of the state’s principals – was too small a sample to get a proper representation. The principal of 15 years said from his experience, Gippsland parents and schools were united in a ban against alcohol at events attended by students.

“It’s against our policy, and to my knowledge in Gippsland it is against all schools’ policies,” Mr Rodaughan said.

“There are no circumstances involving parents, students and teachers that involve alcohol.”

He said a decision at the start of his career at Kurnai to remove drinking from the debutante ball was met with “some resistance” that quickly passed.

“Our deb balls are really popular, there’s no alcohol there and everyone has a great time,” he said.

“Our schools have worked really hard to ensure school events have no alcohol present and a positive time is enjoyed by all members of the school community.”

Lowanna College principal Brett Windsor said alcohol was strictly prohibited at the school’s debutante ball. He said the year 12 graduation ball, held annually at a licensed venue, had alcohol available to those over 18, but only year 12 students, their parents and staff were present.

“I don’t believe we have ever had any issues with physical or violent outbursts at this event,” Mr Windsor said.