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Keller @ Large: Saugus High School's Misplaced Priorities

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.

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