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More screening at school balls following death

Published: 9:18AM Tuesday June 14, 2011 Source: Fairfax

Alcohol and drug screening of school ball partygoers is on the cards after the death of King's College pupil David Gaynor.

The 17-year-old died on Saturday after being asked to leave the college ball at Eden Park, Auckland. His was the second ball-related death to rock the prestigious private school.

A cellphone video emerged yesterday of a girl vomiting near the ball entrance, and photographs of larking pupils clutching hip-flasks.

However, King's College continues to play down reports that youngsters at its event were intoxicated and taking drugs, including Ecstasy and cocaine.

David, the son of business commentator Brian Gaynor, was found near Auckland's southern motorway at 10.30pm on Saturday. He was taken to hospital in a critical condition and died later.

In 1993 Alastair Milne, 16, was killed on his way to a King's College ball when his head struck the Penrose overbridge as he was riding on the upper deck of an open-topped bus. Like David, he had been drinking.

Last night the headmaster of Auckland's Diocesan School for Girls, Heather McRae, said she was considering testing pupils for alcohol and drug consumption when the school's ball was held later this month.

The school, in Epsom, whose fees top $17,000 a year, will also look at liaising with parents planning to hold pre-ball and after-ball functions in an attempt to control the amount of alcohol provided and consumed.

David Gaynor had attended a pre-ball function organised by businessman Craig Norgate, at which alcohol was provided. One News reported last night that TVNZ chief executive Rick Ellis was also a host.

"What we will be asking is for parents who are thinking of holding a pre-ball to register with us so we know who they are, where they are and whether alcohol is there," McRae said.

"In the end they can still serve alcohol to over 18-year-olds but that's the hard part ... to be honest, when they're all dressed up in ball outfits you just can't tell how old they are."

St Kentigern College in Pakuranga, another top private school, is holding its senior ball on Thursday and headmaster Steve Cole said pupils who appeared intoxicated would be screened. One pupil was tested and treated at last year's ball.

He and McRae said they would be naive not to expect problems.

"I think you should always expect problems and always be aware of what the possibilities are," McRae said.

"Unfortunately, I think our drinking age is too low and you combine that with a culture among some young people who are well off and can afford it."

The head of King's College's board of trustees, Peter Ferguson, put the onus on parents yesterday.

The college had done "more than most" to educate pupils about substance abuse, he said.

David Gaynor's funeral will be held tomorrow.