EXETER — Big changes are coming for this weekend’s Homecoming Dance at Exeter High School to prevent a repeat of a dance last March that ended with teenagers facing drug and alcohol charges.
The school will have more chaperones than ever Saturday, along with a strong police presence. Principal Sean Kiley said the chaperones will include as many as 20 faculty members, 13 parents, a registered nurse and three police officers. Three custodians will also be working, providing even more sets of eyes on the students.
“I will always assume that these kids are going to do the right thing. If something goes awry, I can’t say it’s because of a lack of planning,” Kiley said Tuesday.
In addition, Kiley said the school has reduced the number of dances by about 75 percent this year. The only dances planned are this weekend’s Homecoming Dance, a semi-formal dance this winter and a junior and senior prom in the spring.
“Looking at the data, the dances where the kids dress up the most, there are no issues,” Kiley said.
Last school year’s “March Madness” dance prompted a police and school investigation into allegations of alcohol and drug use.
Police Capt. Stephan Poulin said a total of five students faced drug and alcohol charges. Not all were from Exeter High, according to school officials.
New rules this year prohibit students from bringing friends from outside Exeter High to the dances.
“I’m not in this business to give up on kids,” Kiley said. “I believe in the kids who may have gotten jammed up last year. I don’t think the kids want to be known as the school that had dance problems. We’ve had too many great things going on.”
Students helped develop the beefed-up security plan and suggested other steps, including requiring Breathalyzer tests, but Kiley said he didn’t want to go that far.
If trouble arises, Kiley said he has no problem pulling the plug.
“They’re aware I’ll shut it down,” he said, “but I don’t want to.”