[Editorial] Respect is a Two-Way Street
by The Milton Measure on Friday, October 2nd, 2015
A few weeks into the school year comes the inevitable assembly discussing Milton’s DC (Disciplinary Committee) process, and this year was no exception. At the SGA assembly on Wednesday, September 16, members of the SGA delivered quick, humorous summaries of the DC process. Using comical skits, they joked about breaking the school’s unapproved-gatherings rule and encountering unusual DC-able situations, making a heavy topic easier to digest for students new to Milton. Dean of Students Mr. Jose Ruiz delivered a speech, however, that soon ended this lighthearted mood.
He set the stage by asking students to close their eyes and imagine a scenario in which they had violated a school rule and were brought before a disciplinary committee. In this “mindfulness exercise, ” he asked students to imagine a painful conversation with their parents: “Mom/Dad..I’m in the dean of students office – I got caught breaking a major school rule (drinking, cheating, harassing another student).” He asked students to think “about the long drive that [their] parents/guardians [were] going to have to make, or the long flight [they were] going to have to take, just to pick [students] up from school.” Though Mr. Ruiz’s speech had noble intentions, it unfortunately suggested to many students that the damage done by one’s mistakes cannot be repaired.
Of course, to discourage students from making bad decisions is necessary. This speech was likely effective in deterring DC-able behavior, just as being shown a picture of a jail cell or hearing a first-hand account of prison life likely discourages people from committing crimes. Yet in trying to give students a transparent view of the entire DC process, including what happens after the initial infraction, Mr. Ruiz deemphasized the opportunities for recovery that Milton offers. After students get DC’ed, teachers do not look down on them, students do not ostracize them, and life goes on as usual. Making mistakes is an inevitable part of growing up, and attempting to repair the damage one has done is even more important to the learning process. We do not condone actions that can lead to discipline, but we understand that, in a community of 700 teenagers, mistakes do not define a person’s worth; students should be given second chances. After spending many sessions discussing academic integrity and viewing the DC process in action, perhaps returning students understood the speech’s message, but new students, especially freshmen coming from middle school, might feel that getting DC’ed is the end of their high school careers.
More importantly, this speech is inconsistent with Milton’s emphasis on mutually trusting relationships between students and the administration. We are told that students and faculty must have a mutual respect to make living and learning an enjoyable process. For the most part, we do feel this respect, especially in everyday interactions with adults around campus. With speeches like Mr. Ruiz’s, however, this respect is undermined. In fact, many students feel disrespected when an administrator focuses on the punishment instead of emphasizing the school’s hope that students will make good choices. The speech hindered the creation of those trust-based relationships.
We agree with the principles behind Milton’s DC rules and punishments. We should not fixate on who said what but instead focus on eliminating the fearful atmosphere that the administration unwittingly creates when discouraging bad behavior. Administrators have tough jobs, and we need to respect them for trying to find the right balance between granting students freedom and upholding school rules. But administrators, we ask that you respect us equally in all matters as well.
Short URL: http://miltonmeasure.org/?p=7219