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Sniffing out political incorrectness

by Shelley McKinney
web posted July 9, 2001

Have you ever heard of Hopkinton, Massachusetts?

If you haven't, I predict that -- if they go forward with the new policy administrators are "threatening" to implement at the local high school -- Hopkinton, Massachusetts will become one of those towns that everyone is familiar with, like Hershey, Pennsylvania, only not for such sweet reasons. Hopkinton will come to be known as The Litigation Capital of the Free World and will be home to numerous lawsuits, all titled Outraged Parents and Students vs. Hopkinton Board of Education.

What, you ask, could Hopkinton High School be doing to deliberately court a place in infamy?

HHS principal Jane Modoono has your answer: "We want to send a strong message that students cannot smoke."

Up until now, Hopkinton High School students have been punished for smoking by having to pay fines and tolerate the boredom of being "educated" about the evils of smoking -- as if they didn't know. But Principal Modoono says that hasn't been a strong enough message, so she is seriously contemplating organizing a cabal of sniffers from the faculty and administration to track down teenagers who smell like cigarettes.


According to an Associated Press report via the MetroWest Daily News, "teens will risk suspension if they are caught holding a lit cigarette butt or have a tell-tale odor on their clothes. If two or more people confirm that a student smells like smoke, that student will face suspension [up to five days] under the assumption that he or she has recently been smoking." Principal Modoono earnestly affirms that the "smoke stench is different on someone who just smoked than it is on someone who was standing nearby."

If you will, picture this: a student comes into Hopkinton's brand-new $34.7 million dollar high school this fall reeking of the evil weed. Modoono, the Nose Who Knows, grabs the student by the elbow, snuffling deeply and suspiciously.

As she inhales through her flared nostrils, a look of triumph crosses her face. "You're busted, you little twerp!" she crows. "You just wait right here until I call in an Auxiliary Sniffer from the English department -- as soon as we confirm this case of tobacco abuse, you are outta here."

Doesn't this just seem outlandishly stupid? We have students in public high schools across the country who can neither write a sentence in their mother tongue without excruciating grammar errors and one-third of the words misspelled or pass any math class more complicated than pre-algebra, but by golly, if they have been so disgustingly politically incorrect as to SMOKE A CIGARETTE, well, then, get them out, out, OUT!

Hey man, you got any freshener?
Hey man, you got any freshener?

Please understand that I am no more anxious for teenagers to take up smoking than Principal Modoono. It is a smelly (obviously), expensive and potentially life-threatening habit and most smokers rue the day they ever started. However, it seems to me that this principal needs to get her priorities straight: as a school principal, her job is to make sure that kids are educated, not to conduct olfactory social engineering experiments. Cigarettes are not good, but there are other things that are a lot worse traveling around our public schools.

There are times when I feel very sorry for the young people of our country -- they can't catch a break. On the one hand, they are forced to abandon their childish innocence at younger and younger ages as the politically correct social meddlers in the schools introduce them to advanced sexual concepts like Heather's two mommies and how to unroll condoms on bananas . On the other hand, they are considered to be pea-brained idiots -- some schools and administrators still think that "education" is the answer in getting kids to not smoke, as if speaking in words of one syllable and holding up a flash card depicting a cartoon person hacking up a chunk of lung is what will finally convince kids that smoking is bad. And heck, if anti-cigarette education won't work, we'll throw the kids out so that they won't be educated in anything. Brilliant.

There is a certain amount of mischief that teenagers, chafing under the burden of being almost-but-not-quite grown up, are going to get into. Those from good homes where their parents are involved and unafraid to make rules and set limits are obviously going to be less statistically likely to get into trouble than those kids from homes wherein parents and offspring lead separate lives. As far as mischief goes, cigarette smoking isn't great, but it's a lot less of a problem than 15-year-olds getting pregnant and 17-year-olds scarfing down Ecstasy and 13-year-olds showing up in first period with whiskey breath, isn't it?

I'm sure that if the cigarette-sniffing policy is enforced at Hopkinton High School, there will be several lawsuits before too long that will illustrate that point for me.

Shelley McKinney is a senior writer for Enter Stage Right.

Other related articles: (open in a new window)

  • Smoking and liberty by Tom DeWeese (January 29, 2001)
    Hey smokers, asks Tom DeWeese, when are you going to be tired of being considered second class citizens?
  • The Baby-Boomers are going to die by Lawrence Henry (September 20, 1999)
    Why are baby boomers so hot to regulate personal behavior? Because they are going to die soon, says Lawrence Henry

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