School officials excused an Austrian exchange student after catching him smoke a cigarette at lunch last Friday on the quad.
The student, who did not wish to have his name disclosed, lit and smoked a cigarette on the quad. A buzz ran through the Palo Alto High School students, who were on the quad during the lunch period and gazed curiously at the visitor.
Immediately after, he was pulled aside by dean of students Craig Tuana. The student continued to smoke the cigarette as he followed Mr. Tuana into the Tower Building.
Tuana stated that the student will not face any consequences by the school, and school officials will leave the situation to the Austrian counselors. However, he added that if it were a Paly student committing the act, the student would face much more severe consequences, including a possible suspension. Mr. Tuana believed the incident was due to some confusion about differences in the legal smoking age between Austria and the United States. The Austrian student claimed that it is legal to smoke in Austria once one is 16 years old and that, in his school, students who are legally allowed to smoke are allowed to do so once they are outside of the buildings. He also claimed that the entire incident was a misunderstanding, and that he thought the same rules applied at Palo Alto High School. Smoking is, according to the student, a relatively acceptable thing in Austria. “I smoke often; it is normal; it is accepted,” said the exchange student. “Lots of people do it, just not indoors.” Vice Principal Jerry Berkson confirmed Mr. Tuana’s statement, saying that the school will not punish the exchange student. Berkson and the student also had a discussion about the dangers of tobacco, and the exchange student openly apologized. Berkson stated that the student also agreed to turn his shirt, which had the picture of a green marijuana leaf printed over a black background, inside out. “What am I going to do? Suspend him?” Berkson said. “The Austrian exchange students are leaving tomorrow, it is not like they are going to start a culture of smoking at Paly.” The Austrian exchange students traveled to the United States one week prior to the incident with Edu-Culture International, a non-profit educational travel organization. The students returned back to Austria this Monday.