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The Jackson School Board assumed even more responsibility last month for the district's 4,400 students.

Board members enacted a policy that gives them virtually unlimited power to discipline students for off-campus behavior. State education officials believe it's the only policy of its kind in Missouri.

Before, the boundaries were clear: Administrators' power over students' lives ended at the edge of school property. Yes, students could be suspended or expelled if they'd committed dangerous crimes away from school, but that punishment hinged on action by police and prosecutors.

Jackson's new policy gives administrators punitive control over students' off-campus actions that would violate school policies if done on campus.

It started as a way to rein in students who stepped across the street from Jackson High School before and after school and during lunch for a quick smoke. Underage smoking isn't against Missouri law -- which only prohibits minors from buying tobacco products -- but it's against school policy.

And with unsupervised teen-agers, where two or more are gathered, there is an increased possibility of problems.

Aside from what these smoking students are doing to their health at such a tender age, they're hurting Jackson's image as one of the best school districts in the state. Certainly, the teen smokers are in the minority, but they're the students passers-by see as representing the whole.

Other schools, including Central High School in Cape Girardeau, have campus policies that apply to the areas just around schools. Such rules are vital when schools are in residential areas and rowdy students and their litter get to be a problem for the neighbors.

Jackson's policy now goes a step further. Technically, under the policy, students on the other side of town engaged in inappropriate activities could face detention or even suspension for their behavior.

Superintendent Ron Anderson said: "We're making sure we didn't put any limitations on the policy."

No matter how one feels about the policy whether it is a good one designed to protect students' well-being and the district's image, or whether it crosses the line and threatens students' rights -- one point is clear.

Again, government is stepping in to do the parents' jobs.

Moms and dads would do well to navigate the blocks around Jackson High School over the lunch break and see if their children are the ones hanging out and having a smoke. They may be surprised by what they see.