Almost every week students hear the familiar sounds, “Last night, the DC met to discuss the case…” While some of the students whom the DC’s judged ultimately left with Letters of Reprimand and other similarly light punishments, the fact that we as school have gone from Boyden’s casual conversations over infractions to treating every infraction as a disciplinary case is alarming.
Deerfield was initially and remains to this day a “second-chance” school, a school that encourages character growth after mistakes, rather than treating them as errors of character. Deerfield looked not to punish students, but rather to leave students with improved character at the end.
As a student who learned from Ms. Creagh’s understanding but firm tone my sophomore year, I am concerned with the change in approach. Dragging students in front of the Disciplinary Committee for minor offenses is humiliating and not effective. Far more effective is the previous Boyden-esque model, in which the Administration would leave the DC for only the most serious offenses, dealing with the rest through dialogue and instructive repercussions such as letters of reprimand.
Particularly worrying is the recent case in which the DC’s ruling of a two-day suspension for a unique alcohol offense was overturned by the Administration, and subsequently withheld from the student body. The case was a classic example of Deerfield character building. Two students were caught purchasing alcohol off-campus and rather than attempting to shirk their responsibilities and attempt to hide the incident from the school, they volunteered the information after returning to school.
In an acknowledgement of their honesty, the DC’s deliberations concluded that the circumstances warranted a slightly shorter suspension. However, this ruling was quickly overturned by the Administration in what appears to be an attempt to send a message. The message that was sent was not the intended one; rather, it sent a message that conflicted with what many students thought that Deerfield stood for.
Deerfield is meant to teach students through their mistakes, not to punish them to send a message to others. What truly makes Deerfield unique is its ability to allow students to grow and learn from their mistakes, academic, behavioral, or other. What we do not wish to move towards are the stricter policies of our rival schools.
Our policies are a sign of strength in our student body and a show of confidence in its character, not a sign of weakness or tolerance of bad behavior. Our reactions to future infractions should reflect that Deerfield spirit and seek to develop the character of our students rather than vindictively punish them.