By Jon Keller

BOSTON (CBS) – You’ve heard a lot lately about the rule of law, but what about the law of rules? What happens when bureaucrats enforce rules as strictly as if they were life-and-death laws.

The case study here comes from Saugus High School, where seven senior lacrosse players were suspended from postseason competition because they smoked cigars after graduation. Smoking is banned from school events and grounds, but the firing up of a celebratory stogie has long been an unofficial exception to that rule. As Saugus School Committee member Elizabeth Marchese said in a statement:

“For years, the smoking of the traditional cigar has been allowed and overlooked at graduation.”

So why not let the kids off with a warning so they can play in their tournament games? Here’s the Superintendent of Saugus Public Schools David DeRuosi:

“Let’s say that an opposing team is following this story, when our players get on the field and they were supposed to be sanctioned or ineligible, then we have to forfeit the game,” DeRuosi told WBZ-TV.

Really? That’s your concern?

May I respectfully suggest the focus of an educational bureaucracy ought to be on teaching, and the wrong lesson is being taught here. Rules are broken all the time for reasons of ceremony, tradition, and even fun, like fireworks on the beach on the Fourth of July or the office pool during March Madness.

Instead of showing understanding and letting these kids off with a warning, Saugus is modeling rigidity and misplaced priorities. I give this lesson plan an “F.”

Agree or disagree, let’s hear your opinion, via email at, or use Twitter, @kelleratlarge.

Comments (2)
  1. I was running a international championship for a prestigious trophy many years ago. There was a question about the legitimacy of a alternate measurement certificate that was submitted a few moments after the deadline.

    During the deliberations regarding whether or not to allow the change, on of the most senior judges remarked to me, and quite rightly so: “If you are not going to follow the rules in a World Championship, when are you going to follow them?”

    Same situation here, Jon. The rules of the school say that there is to be no smoking…Indeed, society has now determined that smoking is very detrimental to one’s health, and it is now entrained in both policy and law that minors are NOT permitted to smoke.

    So, here we are with the school rules at a school event, with policy and laws decidedly not in favor of smoking…

    And you’re arguing that by custom they should be allowed to light up and puff away? I won’t press the bit about them being minors and technically not permitted to smoke, but I will press the issue about school rules at a school event.

    If you aren’t going to enforce the school rules at a school event, when are you going to enforce them.

    Think seriously, Jon, before you respond…Whatever you might have to say may end up showing the liberal as being as illogical and irresponsible as they are accused of being.

  2. Not only is it no smoking on school grounds. Massachusetts increased the smoking age to 21. The MIAA athlete and the parent sign a contract…No alcohol, No tobacco…..I am angry at the Coach and AD as they also know what the MIAA asks ALL schools in that conference to follow….. No Tobacco: School, State and MIAA……..3 strikes and they pay the price!

    A few years ago a girls soccer team had a similar incident. They could not play…..Why should Saugus be any different. A fair and clear set of rules for ALL SCHOOLS = MIAA

    Jon you are setting a poor example for our future leaders

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