Amid rising student behavior problems in Alaska and around the nation, the Alaska Department of Education wants public schools to reconsider issuing traditional suspensions for youth who violate school policy by vaping or using tobacco products.

A Dec. 6 email to educators observes that schools “typically use in- and out-of-school suspension penalties to help maintain safety standards.” It notes that there were 781 total school suspensions for tobacco product use, including e-cigarettes, in 2018-2019. That amounted to 1,800 days of lost schooling.

Rather than punish students, the state wants school administrators to implement “alternative strategies” such as reeducation workshops, engaging parents and investing in students’ “emotional well-being” by hiring additional counselors, social workers and mental health staff.

The state notice claims there is evidence that “harsher punishments may reduce graduation rates for all students in their schools.” It also asserts that there is “no short- or long-term academic benefits for the entire student body by removing disruptive students, including those who were suspended for tobacco or e-cigarette use.”

While the past decade has seen a shift away from traditional discipline practices such as detentions, suspensions, loss of privileges and other measures, the new “social emotional” techniques employed in many state schools have failed to correct behavior issues. Public schools across the nation continue to see an upticks in fights, vandalism, truancy and classroom disruptions.

The Anchorage School District – Alaska’s largest – has been inundated with behavioral problems since the start of the year. Last month, a fight broke out at Anchorage’s West High School involving 20 to 30 students in which a number of teens were arrested or suspended. A few weeks earlier, Superintendent Deena Bishop said the district was plagued by student outbursts, tantrums, foul language, disrespect to adults and increased physical fights.

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State urges Alaska’s public schools stop suspending students for vaping

Joel Davidson
Joel is Editor-in-Chief of the Alaska Watchman. Joel is an award winning journalist and has been reporting for over 24 years, He is a proud father of 8 children, and lives in Palmer, Alaska.


  • ML Moore says:

    This is a simple problem to fix. Initiate legislation that makes it illegal for anyone under 18 years of age to possess, or buy vaping products, which bye the way should be the standard for cigarettes. Schools, would enforce by by contacting law enforcement to cite and confiscate prohibited products. They don’t have to suspend, leave the consequences to the law.

  • Lawrence Walker says:

    Suspension is needed when it’s at school. No punishment leads to worse behavior. Rewarding bad behavior will make way more problems. If you think the kids are a problem now,wait till they can walk all over the staff, cause they will. Liberalism is killing our schools, traditions, and family values.

  • Tamra C Nygaard says:

    It is impossible to believe that ” there is “no short- or long-term academic benefits for the entire student body by removing disruptive students…” If they are disruptive, then removing them removes the disruption. Hey, academia, if you are going to lie, you’ll have to do better than that.

  • Wisdom Cries in the Streets says:

    As a mother of four I can tell you with considerable confidence that removing consequences for bad behavior does not stop the bad behavior. The reason children have become ever more disrespectful and increasingly engaged in bad behaviors may have more to do with their parents completely “checking out” of their role as parents. Stress, exhaustion, and a preoccupation, and in some cases, an obsession with what’s happening outside of the home (read: social media, news, activism) has completely severed the relationships inside the home. Parents and their kids are now roommates and strangers, and an entire generation is desperate for human connection with anyone who gives a damn enough to set up some boundaries.

  • Michael HUGHES says:

    Spare the rod, spoil the child…

  • Jamie says:

    Interestingly, when I was in HS, there was a designated smoking area for adults outside the school and the teachers turned a blind eye to the students who smoked. How is it possible for a child who watches a family member smoke or uses the smoking to alleviate stress-related issues is punished by being ejected from the one place that may bring solace to their lives? I am not a smoker, never have been, detest the medical issues it does to our bodies but I believe in our children. Punishment as an adult is not always the answer.

    • Common Peasant says:

      When the adults are leading by example (smoking), it would be hipocritical to tell students not to. Maybe staff should not be smoking and learn (and teach) healthy methods of stress control. Like rythmic breathing and meditation.

  • AB says:

    Just making sure I’m following Alaska Watchman logic…. Schools and government have no right to require students (or anyone) to wear a mask or get vaccinated because it violates their personal liberties because it’s “my body, my choice,” so to rebel is praiseworthy. But schools need to be punishing students who smoke and governments should make it a crime for minors to possess tobacco products. Couldn’t an argument be made that such regulations violate the students’ personal liberties because it’s “their body, their choice”?

    Gotcha. Makes perfect sense.

    • Scott says:

      Leftists ALWAYS confuse things because they can’t think very well. This is not about ‘my body my choice’ but keep trolling like a loser.

    • Wisdom Cries in the Streets says:

      So, maybe I’m taking the bait here? But you’re not seriously equating mask-wearing (with limited scientific evidence that they are effective and about which there is no ACTUAL laws) to minors using tobacco (which is unequivocally harmful and ALSO against state law for people under 21)? Just checking.

  • Proud Alaskan says:

    Rather than punish students, the state wants school administrators to implement “alternative strategies”
    such as reeducation workshops, engaging parents and investing in students’ “emotional well-being” by hiring additional counselors, social workers and mental health staff.
    I’m not a smoker, I have smoker friends yes it’s discussing yuck.
    So now we’re going to spend more money on social worker. For what to teach our kids you can’t smoke, but it’s ok to be a boy and use the girls bathroom and all this woke bull crap. And yes you can turn your parents into the authorities because it’s not fair.
    Like Micheal said spank the kid take away there phones what ever it take. to stop having disrespectful children

  • Scott says:

    Just let the kids do what they do if noones getting hurt for the love of god. If a kids vaping/smoking off school property it aint an issue. If on property, confiscate the offending items. EASY problem to solve. Friggin everyone wants to make things harder than things have to be.

  • Theresa says:

    A friend of mine teaches Kindergarten at a school in WI. It is rare for week to go by without her calling the police and a child’s parent/s/guardian. The teachers are not allowed to impose any sort of discipline, and they are daily subjected to verbal and physical abuse st the hands of their students.
    When my friend told me this last summer, I had a hard time believing it was possible. After reading this article, it’s not so difficult to believe.

  • NC says:

    LOL! my ass got beat for playing with matches and my parents smoked!
    I, took matches and played in the forest of Scotch Bloom ( very flamable)
    But, my mom was watching and checking on me! busted my ass…got whooped!
    I didn’t do that again. Sorry folks I believe in ass spankings for dangerous things!
    Not stupid shit… I didn’t eat my vegies!!! or whatever!!!! parents need more
    feeling they are in control with kids not their goverment/schools scaring them!
    get back too the old days!!!!! and make the new days better with all this technology!

  • Parents With Expectations says:

    Let me add this newest, illogical version of ridiculousness, likely fueled by an overly liberal school board, to the long list of reasons we homeschool our children.
    Think about the school shooting tragedy that recently occurred in our nation. School administrators and teachers are so concerned nowadays about offending parents or even students, that they are willing to jeopardize the safety and achievement of the other children in that school. It would have been logical to do a locker or belongings search of any student behaving the way that young man had been. This didn’t happen. Why? It would have offended way too many people. Instead, innocent lives were taken and thousands of families lives were changed forever. Not to mention the surviving students. I’m sure they feel safe going back to school after hearing that the ADULTS who were supposed to protect them with safety plans, rules and expectations were simply too cowardly to send that kid and his parents packing immediately after the first report of concern.
    This topic is very similar at a root issue. When I was growing up, it was a schools job to provide not only a solid education, but also general safety to the students, ALL of the time. Now it’s acceptable for kids who don’t come from families with morals or expectations to parade around their idiocy and terrible decision making in front of good kids who are there to learn and do their best? Without any consequences??? At a risk to their safety???
    ASD needs to get their priorities straight.