(Copyright 1998. All rights reserved.)

The Tattoo

--- Making a Permanent Impression Since 1994 ---

January 26, 1998

Administrators snuff out BEHS "Smokers' Corner"

Tattoo Staff Writer

Bristol Eastern High School is cracking down on
its notorious "Smokers' Corner."

School administrators and the police are
patrolling the southwestern corner of the
parking lot to prevent student smokers from
hanging out in a long-time safe haven.

But students are still finding ways to take
their needed puffs anywhere they can.

Stairwells reek from cigarette smoke because so
many students light up during class breaks,
especially during lunch.

Another popular spot is the "pot rock" on the
trail behind the school where students smoke --
and maybe more -- before school, between classes
or after the final bell.

One smoker, freshman Heather St. Onge, said, "It
shouldn't be kept from being done because it is
what happens and it's perfectly legal."

Principal Everett Lyons said the pot rock is
easily visible from the Gray House second floor
attendance office.

Michelle Collins, the school's outreach worker,
goes out there from time to time, Lyons said.

"It's just a game of cat and mouse," Lyons said.

But bathrooms don't attract smokers because it's
too easy to get caught there.

"Smoking isn't something that should be
happening in school," Lyons said.

Students who get caught smoking in the building
will get slapped with three day suspensions,
Lyons said.

Though administrators can't be everywhere, he
said, adults don't have to be physically present
to catch smokers. Video cameras have nabbed
offenders in the past, Lyons said. He said they
would occasionally set them up at random.
"Sometimes we come up with some interesting
footage that we share with moms and dads."

The crackdown, part of a national effort to keep
teens from smoking, is apparently spurred by the
school's hope to capture a blue ribbon award.
Anti-smoking efforts will help.

Lyons said he will do his part to help with the
anti-smoking campaign by having teachers and
other adults "continue to educate students about
the health hazards of using tobacco. ... I think
adults have to be role models."

Early this school year, the number of teens
gathering at the smokers' corner had doubled
from last year's level, Lyons said.

Lyons said some of the kids who don't smoke
would join the large crowds gathered there to
socialize with friends. Others who showed up
didn't even attend Eastern.

The large crowds bothered people who own houses
on nearby Rich Lane, Lyons said. The corner also
brought too many safety hazards, he said.

Among the problems may have been drug use.

"I've been told by some of the kids that there
are other activities (at the corner) that we
should be aware of," Lyons said. But he said he
hasn't found any proof.

Collins said a teacher once this year reported
smelling "something other than cigarettes"
inside the school. Collins said she's smelled
illicit drugs just once in her four years at

"In my opinion, they're not doing it here," she

Once Lyons, Collins and assistant principals
Daniel Viens and Boyd Biondino started going to
the corner in the morning, telling students to
get to class so they wouldn't be tardy, the
numbers dwindled.

To lend a hand, a police car or two is often
there, morning and night.

Now that the police are at the corner, students
have been very cooperative, Lyons said. He said
he has received compliments from parents.

Lyons said that eliminating the smokers' corner
"promotes a better atmosphere for the school."

There have been "smoking cessation classes"
administered at Eastern recently. But Liz
Olejarz, a sophomore, said, "I've heard from
people who are in it and it's not working."

Lyons said the students who continue to gather
are "not a large group causing problems." But,
he said, "they'll find a policeman there."

There is still a large group gathered at the
corner before and after school, however.

Regarding students smoking inside the building,
Lyons said, administrators can't be everywhere
all the time.