Andover High School students caught cheating, plagiarizing or smoking on school grounds will face new penalties this year. The School Committee has approved the school's new student handbook, prepared by the Andover High administration. While the school department receives high marks for looking after students' intellectual, moral and physical health, the new smoking policy seems set to burn through parents' wallets, rather than focus just on encouraging better student behavior.

Andover's new policy on cheating and plagiarizing seems on target. Students caught either cheating or stealing others work will receive an F for the assignment and have their parents called for a meeting. There is no appeal.

Those caught again will be given an F for the course.

The change falls into the "tough but fair" category. It's important for teachers to discuss issues such as plagiarism so that students learn intellectual honesty, the importance of acknowledging others' work and the value of coming up with their own ideas. As students get older, dishonesty in this area could get them kicked out of school, fired, humiliated or all of the above.

Also, in our age of text messaging and handheld Internet devises, schools need to approach stopping cheats in new ways. Schools throughout town and beyond that haven't created a policy for banning cell phones and other electronic devices from rooms during tests would be wise to do so.

While text messaging and the amount of information available online for copying pose a new challenge to educators trying to stamp out cheating, students taking cigarette breaks is nothing new.

This year, Andover High is again trying a new approach to handling the issue, after consulting with parents. Students caught smoking this year will face $100 fines, must complete a tobacco education program and their parents will be called to the school.

Last year, a student could be suspended for smoking. It made sense to abandon that policy after a year. Why should a student caught smoking miss out on | or, as some students might look at it, get out of | going to class?

But two years ago, students caught smoking had to attend detention after school. Free time might be the most important commodity to a high school student. Handing out detentions to students breaking the rules by smoking on campus seems a reasonable penalty, and one worth reconsidering. When schools fine students $100, they might be reaching into the parents' wallets, rather than the students'.

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