Catholic schoolgirl suspended after being caught smoking 20 miles away from school property

Tracey Folly

*This is a work of nonfiction based on actual events as told to me by a classmate, who experienced them firsthand; used with permission.

When I was in high school, we all knew better than to smoke on the school grounds. However, what we didn't realize was that we could still get in trouble even if we got caught smoking off school grounds. That's what happened to one of my classmates when a teacher spotted her smoking at a bus stop twenty miles away from school property while wearing our familiar Catholic schoolgirl uniform. It was that uniform that did her in.
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Here's how it happened.

Once upon a time, at a Catholic school in a small town, there was a young girl who thought she could get away with something she knew she shouldn't, smoking cigarettes.

She believed that she would be safe from any punishment if she smoked away from school property. She never thought that anyone could link her to the Catholic school she attended since she was so far away from the campus.

Little did she know that her school uniform would give her away.

One day, a teacher on her way home for the weekend spotted my classmate smoking at a bus stop twenty miles away from school. The teacher immediately recognized the girl's school uniform and knew this was an opportunity to discipline her for breaking the rules. She called up the school principal and reported her findings. As expected, the consequences were dire.

My classmate was suspended for two weeks and was made to do community service for the duration of her suspension. She was humiliated and embarrassed, but most of all, she learned the valuable lesson that although you may think you're exempt from the rules, that isn't necessarily so.

All our fellow students were horrified. None of us had ever expected we could get in trouble for something done outside of school hours and miles away from school property. It made us anxious, especially at bus stops, even when we weren't doing anything wrong.

What was next? Would we get in trouble for hanging out with boys? That's the only thing that worried me personally. I didn't smoke.

The school's decision angered many students and parents alike. But our school administrators were relentless and determined to make an example out of my classmate.

After her suspension, she decided to turn a bad situation into a positive one. She decided to be an example and mentor to younger students by teaching them the importance of making good decisions and following the rules. She started a club at the school and ran weekly discussion groups to talk about how to stay out of trouble and make smart choices, and she quit smoking on and off school property.

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Ordained Minister, Universal Life Church

Massachusetts State

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