“Witch-hunt.” “Screwed over.” “Three day.” “This is BS.” “Should have lied.”
A common thread runs through the attitudes of students with a DC on their record: resentment. There exists a perception among DA students that the administration is “out to get us.” Although the deans try hard to strike a balance between educator and executioner, more often than not, administrative responses to student misconduct turn out to be purely punitive.
Disciplinary Committee hearings, instead of healing and advising students, produce animosity toward the institution without accomplishing their goal to rehabilitate. The punishment doled out most often is the infamous three-day suspension.
But in reality, the suspension lasts for more than three days. It follows you throughout your time at Deerfield. It is present in the judgmental glances of your peers, the disappointed frowns of your teachers and the red flag on your college application.
Few students believe that the punishment of going home for three days is at its core a capital sentence. The impact of the punishment is achieved more by the public shunning and silent humiliation that occurs after the student returns.
The student is expected within those three days to have an epiphany, reconstruct his or her decision-making process and return to school a smiling trophy of civility, all without any helpful input from the school besides a letter and a security guard to escort the banished off campus.
In its mission statement, Deerfield claims to focus more on the ethical education of a student than on his or her academic success. In letter if not in deed, DA seeks to instill a sense of “citizenship,” “personal responsibility” and “strong moral character.”
However, the current system of discipline chooses to exploit a student’s most vulnerable moments as opportunities to punish rather than to educate.
Deerfield’s faculty and administration consist of countless inspiring role models who have more than enough wisdom to play the role of mentor. The school is missing its chance to help young people learn.
Luckily, Deerfield’s administration is one unafraid of self-evaluation. After a re- examination of our justice system, the administration, along with the Ethics Committee, has drafted a plan that will attempt to reform the weaknesses of this purely punitive system. Under the new system, the DC will have a far more expansive “toolbox” of punishments that it may dole out so that the punitive and restorative response will best fit each individual case.
The hope is that the DC experience will more closely resemble a learning process than a harsh punishment. Each case will be reviewed individually, and action will be tailored to the individual. No longer will we hear echos of “that’s what everyone gets.”
Many students may look at this change as a relaxation of the rules or as an easy “get out of jail free” card. However, we as students must understand that this change does not mark a shift in severity but rather a shift in responsibility. The students must now take it upon themselves to understand that there no longer exists a “me vs. the administration” mentality to being disciplined.
Rather, every individual should act in accordance with what he or she perceives as the right thing to do. Inspiration to do good can no longer come from fear of the savage wrath of authority. The inspiration to do good must come from our own innate desire to be good people.
Inevitably, during our transition at Deerfield from child to citizen we will make mistakes. The newly revamped disciplinary system now may be considered a helpful source of support available to us during both the punitive and restorative process; but in the end, when the rigid columns of the main school building melt away, it is up to each of us as individuals to accept the weight of the ceiling or fold under the pressure of its consequence.