[Editorial] Guilty Until Proven Guilty
by The Milton Measure on Friday, June 6th, 2014
One of the hallmarks of spring at Milton is an increase in the amount of disciplinary committee statements we hear during morning assemblies. Students are assigned so much work in the last few weeks of school that even the most conscientious of students feel the urge to cheat their ways into summer. We all need to boost a grade or two towards the end of the year, a drive that inspires many to look up the answer to a difficult math problem or the study guide to a Shakespearean text. For a few unwise students thinking through the lenses of stress and fatigue, the consequences of such actions seem trivial. However, the imposing thought of harsh disciplinary action, the terrorizing sensation of permanently staining their academic transcripts or incurring the wrath of their parents, often encourages students to avoid dishonesty or violations of school policies.
Though it states in the Student Handbook that all rules enforced “protect individual students from behavior that is not healthy or safe, foster cohesion and morale of the community, and enhance education by discouraging impediments to learning,” students often wonder if the infractions made this year were truly worthy of the punishments they ensued. It seems to many that a portion of the student population that underwent the Milton judiciary process received unnecessarily strict punishment, likely creating social, academic, and domestic consequences—independent of the severity of the original offense. A student peeing in the woods incurs the same stigma as one cheating on an exam. Someone going to get fresh air suffers the same judgment as another person who plagiarizes a paper.
Most of the power in the initial steps of the disciplinary process rests in the hands of the reporting teacher, an imbalance that harbors its own set of issues. Teachers’ standards vary wildly in terms of which rules a student can and cannot break, and teachers vary in their approaches to student violations. Some might report a student immediately, while others might give the individual a second chance. Due to the wide range in which teachers treat academic and ethical violations, the disciplinary system is flawed: the discipline itself is not doled out by the committee but rather by the teacher who chooses to report it, and a student’s future does not rest on the shoulders of student representatives, as the process often boasts.
We are not proposing that this institution’s values are invalid nor are we unappreciative for the Disciplinary Process, which rightfully castigates most of the infractions presented. However, some of its policies are flawed, manifested in the harsh penalties dispensed by the administration for cases that deserve a lighter hand. The solution to this problem is obvious: the committee, including SGA members, should play a larger role in determining whether or not disciplinary action is necessary. At the very least, the committee should have the option of expunging an indiscretion from a students’ permanent record. Without the threat of a blotch on their college transcripts, students would be far more likely to come forward and admit their transgressions. A system that revolves around redemption is neither a dishonest nor an unfair arrangement. Students deserve the opportunity for a second chance, and with the system in place now, they’re simply not being granted one.
Short URL: http://miltonmeasure.org/?p=6110