AUGUSTA —The Board of Education approved a drug and alcohol policy that some have criticized because its provisions call for suspension and expulsion from school in some cases.

Board members unanimously approved the new Drug and Alcohol Use by Students policy, which states school principals may suspend and/or recommend expulsion of students who violate it.

Parents, substance abuse experts and some school board members have previously criticized the proposal saying students caught with cigarettes, booze or drugs should be counseled and disciplined, but that discipline should take place in school. They said suspending students with substance abuse problems could make their problems worse, not better, by forcing them out of the school environment.

School administrators say suspension is not the first option, nor even a commonly used option, when students are caught violating substance abuse rules on school grounds. But it is a tool they need in case students don’t comply with the rules and other discipline is not effective, they said.