Students who refuse to "just say no" now will have the Nebo School District to say it for them.

The district has a new drug-alcohol-tobacco abuse policy that allows school officials to punish some repeat on-campus offenders with permanent expulsion from school. "Yes" to drugs means "no" to school."This program has had great success in different parts of the country," said Larry Kimball, coordinator of secondary curriculum. "Schools that have used this program now have drug-free campuses."

Kimball said he and others on his committee visited schools in the Baltimore and Washington area. School grounds indeed were drug free, but officials told him that students merely moved their habits off-campus.

"That really bothered me - the idea that drugs were OK as long as you didn't use them at school. With this and a number of other programs we have in the district, we hope we can teach a lesson kids can take home with them. If it doesn't go home with them, we have failed."

Kimball said research has shown that only 2 percent to 3 percent of students in the district abuse drugs, alcohol or tobacco, but he hopes the program will help the few who need it and perhaps prevent other students from developing bad habits.

Most substance abusers in the Nebo School District used tobacco and alcohol, he said.

"It was past time for a new policy," Kimball said. "The last one was written in 1976 and did not provide any penalties or list any expectations for the students. With decisions left to each school, penalties varied."

The former policy said students found under the influence of drugs or alcohol would be "subject to disciplinary procedures" and in some cases police could be notified without the consent of parents or guardians.

The new policy provides steps to be taken by students, parents and the principal for first, second and third offenses. Police will be notified of offenses. Punishment will vary depending on possession, use or distribution of tobacco, drugs or alcohol.

At one end of the range, a first violation of the tobacco policy will mean a student is referred to court and parents asked to schedule a conference with school officials.

On the other end, a third violation by drug or alcohol users or a second violation by a drug or alcohol dealer will result in permanent expulsion from school for students 16 years or older.

Students who voluntarily ask for help in fighting drug, alcohol or tobacco habits will be given assistance, the guidelines say.

Kimball said the policy, approved Wednesday by the Nebo School Board, was earlier shown to several groups of parents at PTA meetings

"There was a lot of acceptance there. The parents who have seen it seem to feel something like this was needed to make the schools the safe and appropriate places they should be."

A similar policy will be considered by the Provo School District this week.