Senior Prom and Father's Day

I want to start this note by stating that I don’t support underage drinking, and I’m in favour of promoting a safe school environment for our kids. That being said, I recently found myself cast in the role of “Bohemian Badass Libertarian Dad” trying to help my daughter, and her high school senior friends who attend Northern Secondary School, with a problem.

The Principal sent out an email to parents, the day before prom tickets went on sale, advising that all attendees would be required to submit to a breathalyzer as a condition of admission to the event. While I understood his agenda (keeping students safe and avoiding drunken acting-out) and that he purported to have parent-committee support, his decision didn’t sit well with me. So I sent him an email, in which I questioned the legal basis for conducting the blanket testing (which is a form of search and seizure) and the timing of the announcement of his decision. It seemed unfair and illegal that all students would be subjected to an invasive test without reasonable grounds to do so. The policy was overreaching.  I was also concerned that some unintended consequences might result from the policy (that students would perhaps switch to other “intoxicants”).

The Principal called and we spoke – agreeing to disagree on the matter. But expecting that, I also reached out to some friends in the local media and put the story out there. And in short time it got picked up by other media. You might have seen the unfortunately banal coverage in the evening news or perhaps the insightful article by the National Post. Through the impressive efforts of the student council, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) became involved. And as I write this note, an injunction to prevent the policy from being implemented is being argued in court.

I was happy to help.  Fortunately I have a unique skill set enabling me to do so -having been a litigator for nineteen years and now a publisher for seven.  And I was motivated to act because I genuinely  felt that my child’s civil rights were being improperly infringed. But my actions were most fulfilling for me as a father. I was simultaneously able to engage my children in serious thought about larger issues, demonstrate how they can affect results and most importantly show them that as a parent I have their backs. This Father’s Day I wish for all Tonic readers that they have the opportunity to be tested as a parent or a child and are fulfilled in trying to meet that challenge.

And on June 21st I wish that all Tonic readers, friends and family join us for OmT.O., a full day of free yoga at the Distillery District. This issue you can learn all about OmT.O. sponsors and our fabulous participating studios (p.29), learn how to hire a personal trainer (p. 45); find out the five key ingredients to health and happiness as you age (p. 26) or which home-juicer is right for you (p.38). As always if you want to talk to me about Tonic (or illegal search and seizure) or OmT.O.,  feel free to email me at

PS: Since writing this note, the injunction hearing was adjourned to September. As a term of the adjournment the Toronto District School Board agreed that there would be no breathalyzer testing at the Northern Secondary School Prom. This “agreement” is a de facto interim-interim injunction, granting to the petitioning students the relief they were seeking (on a without prejudice basis). It is a civil rights win.

Categories: Publisher’s Note