It is only an open space behind a building, but the Pit is the only place Cache High student smokers can light up without worrying about getting kicked out of school.

Principal Joel Allred tells his students about the health problems associated with smoking. He gives them one school credit if they successfully complete a smoking cessation program.But he does not want to drive his smoking students off the alternative high school's campus. If he did, he says, they might not come back.

"I don't like smoking," Allred said. "Smoking kills people. But if I have to choose my battles, smoking wouldn't be one of them."

Even so, the Cache High discipline policy warns smokers that if they light up at the Pit, they do so at their own risk. If a policeman comes to investigate student smokers, they are on their own. And if they smoke somewhere other than the Pit, Allred may write the smoking citation himself.

In the past, Cache High has tried to ban smoking on campus, Allred said. But students ended up taking their cigarettes elsewhere, and absenteeism went up.

Cache Superintendent Larry Jensen agrees but does not think a smoking area would be appropriate at Mountain Crest or Sky View. At an alternative high school, he said, "It seems reasonable to accept that there are going to be behaviors that are not the norm."

Smokers at Mountain Crest and Sky View face suspension and losing their extracurricular privileges if they are caught lighting up on campus. Repeat offenders may face expulsion.

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Allred ranks smoking as the third-highest reason students come to his alternative school in the first place. Poor academic performance ranks first and absenteeism second.

"They're all interrelated, I'm sure," he said.

Jensen said the alternative school gives those students a place where they can fit in. Students have told him that going to Cache High School made it possible for them to graduate.

"If you want to find out if it's effective, attend one of their graduations," he said.

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