Senior Dismissed After Refusing First Breathalyzer Test Request

Phillips Academy deans requested to use the school breathalyzer on a student for the first time last week, according to Dr. Richard Keller, School Physician. The school dismissed Chris Massie ’10 from Phillips Academy on Wednesday afternoon after he refused to take the breathalyzer test, which estimates blood alcohol content, on the previous Friday. The Blue Book breathalyzer policy states, “Failure to consent to testing, evidence of attempted adulteration, or refusal to cooperate with the testing procedures in any way will be handled as if the test result were positive.” Massie said that he had already received probation during his Lower year for the possession of marijuana. According to the Blue Book, a second probationary offense, such as alcohol use, will lead to a dismissal. Massie said in an interview with The Phillipian, “My denial of the breathalyzer had nothing to do with the possibility of me failing it.” He said he refused to take the breathalyzer test because he opposes the policy. “I feel it’s an invasion of privacy and goes against honesty, one of the values the school emphasizes the most,” he said. Massie wrote in his statement for the Disciplinary Committee, “I refused to take the test because I believe that such a thing undermines and questions my integrity and honesty. Furthermore, the breathalyzer policy contradicts almost every moral value that the rest of the Blue Book preaches.” The Blue Book states a student can be tested for alcohol if the student’s “behavior, presentation or circumstance is indicative of recent alcohol consumption,” and the student denies alcohol use. Massie does not believe he appeared drunk and has denied consuming alcohol on the Friday in question. Phillips Academy administrators could not openly comment on this week’s D.C. because official school policy forbids revealing information about individual cases of student discipline. Paul Murphy, Dean of Students and Residential Life, said about general disciplinary situations, “We follow the Blue Book, we follow the procedures, and I trust that people will have faith that we are doing the right thing.” Massie’s mother, Deborah Karl, said, “We will certainly bring an action [to the school] of some kind.” Karl said that she may pursue legal action. Massie said that after he heard the final verdict of his dismissal, he shouted at various administrators and threw a glass of water on one of them. On the Friday night in question, Massie was in a two-room double in Bartlett Hall, where other students were drinking alcohol. A two-room double consists of a larger room that one walks into upon entering and a smaller room connected in the back. Massie said he was in the smaller inside room of another student’s dorm room when one of his house counselors walked into the larger room and suspected that four students in the larger room had been drinking. Massie said, “I was in the smaller room taking a voice message from my parents. I couldn’t see what the kids were doing and hadn’t been in that part of the room while they were drinking.” Faculty members asked Massie to take a breathalyzer test, and Massie replied that he was not drunk, according to Massie’s account of the incident. Massie quoted page four of the Blue Book in his statement, which reads, “Honesty is the basic value on which the community rests.” “Honesty exists on a premise of equality between at least two individuals. That equality is born from an assumption by one individual that what the other individual is telling him is true,” Massie wrote in his statement. According to a person with knowledge of Massie’s Disciplinary Committee, the committee recommended that Massie be put on second probation without dismissal, which would not differ from the terms of a normal probation. This recommendation for a second probation without dismissal would be a divergence from the Blue Book’s policy on probation, which states, “A second probationary offense also will lead to dismissal from the school.” After a Disciplinary Committee, which can recommend a dismissal, makes its recommendation, the Dean of Students has the right to make the final decision on the student’s punishment, according to Murphy. Phillips Academy first instituted the breathalyzer policy for the 2008-2009 school year. The breathalyzer was not used last year in a disciplinary situation but has been used when students have been placed under the Sanctuary Policy, which is a non-disciplinary response to drug and alcohol. Under the Sanctuary Policy, students can seek help for themselves or for other students who seem to be impaired as a result of drug or alcohol use.