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Prep school disciplinary policy re alerting colleges

psparentpsparent 46 replies4 threads Junior Member
This is really a vent / cautionary tale for parents of not-perfect kids concerned about college admissions. In case you are not sure, if you have a kid, that kid is not perfect.

Our son is a senior at a top boarding school. He absolutely loved the school and was a leader on campus. Sending him to boarding school was a huge sacrifice (financial and otherwise) but he really wanted it. He was a bi-varsity athlete and a progressed from prefect as a junior to RA his senior year. Last December we got a call from him - crying so hard he couldn't breathe - that he was in trouble. He had smoked pot off campus over the weekend, and a student who was caught for other infractions said he had provided pot to my son. The deans showed up in his dorm room, demanded a drug test, and searched his room (which was clean). However, since he knew that he would be drug tested he confessed.

I can tell you that I never ever thought my son would do what he did and it was inexcusable. He was suspended and sent home. The humiliation was incredible. And deserved. For the rest of the year he is drug tested regularly and going to a counselor.

The consequences have been pretty far reaching though. For something that happened 100 % off campus, for which the school's only evidence was a voluntarily given drug test, the school sends a letter to all colleges where a student has applied to say that the student was subject to disciplinary action. On the common ap they then need to write an explanation of what happened, taking full responsibility. He was also stripped of his RA status. Being an RA was a huge time commitment and a major extra curricular to be highlighted on his college applications - until it wasn't.

Anyway, he had a pretty disappointing college acceptance season despite good grades, a near perfect ACT score, and very challenging curriculum, including Chinese.

I can't be sure that the suspension and the loss of RA status led to being rejected from some colleges, but if it did, it was due to an action that would never lead to discipline at a non-boarding school. One of our goals as parents sending our kids to boarding school IS a good college placement. I was glad that the consequences of his infraction were major but I have serious concerns about the impact they had on his future.

On a related note, one of the most common reasons for suspension is plagiarism. This does have a HUGE impact on college admissions. The issue at his school is that more than once a student has been found to have plagiarized when there are a few scattered phrases in a paper that match those (found using software) from another source - when it could easily have been inadvertent. Colleges don't care a ton about pot smoking on the weekend, but plagiarism can be devastating.

And, final note, star athletes found doing much worse have somehow had their discipline overturned.

4 years ago I was a smug mom 100 % certain that my kid would never ever do anything wrong and supporting the toughest possible discipline to keep out bad kids or kids who didn't adequately appreciate the opportunities of boarding school. Now having lived through this my attitude is quite different.
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Replies to: Prep school disciplinary policy re alerting colleges

  • CottenCandyTrillCottenCandyTrill 172 replies25 threads Junior Member
    Wow,I'm worried now,what if I get framed for plagiarizing on accident. Feel bad that smoking pot caused him to get into such trouble, though the disciplinary action definitely will teach him not to smoke ever again(least not near school).
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  • HMom16HMom16 803 replies19 threads Member
    Unfortunately, it seems schools (both public and private) can be very arbitrary about these things. In our town, there were some boys at a house party where the police were called due to noise. Unfortunately some of the kids were drinking (underage). Everyone at the party was suspended from school and kicked off of their sports teams, whether they were actually drinking or not. Some of the boys had already committed to college sports teams but lost those commitments when the school notified the colleges of the suspension and disciplinarian action.

    I'm so sorry about what happened to your son. I don't understand why school officials don't consider more carefully whether the consequences of their punishment actually fit the gravity of the crime.
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  • CenterCenter 2204 replies66 threads Senior Member
    I have observed that these boarding schools have very arbitrary disciplinary policies and procedures. First, I do not believe the school should be able to proactively contact a college about anything unless it is something that is a felony. Pot is now legal in most states (to which I am vehemently opposed) and as such I think its ridiculous to have school policies that treat actions with more severity than those that have been legally condoned on a national level. On a side note I think you should have contacted an attorney to communicate with the school. Boys are treated far worse than girls in general in disciplinary matters and I believe that if someone did a study, akin to womens' pay across industries, you would see that boys (with later maturing brains) suffer far more in these schools in not only severity of punishment but even getting in trouble. I.e a girl can send someone a naked picture of herself but the boy gets in trouble. Girl--no repercussions. This is happening OVER and OVER. https://www.wsj.com/articles/how-to-end-a-campus-injustice-with-the-stroke-of-a-pen-1491864934
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  • AmyForeverAmyForever 30 replies0 threads Junior Member
    Sorry to hear about your son, before punishing they should consider the future consequences on child and society. I guess he might be under radar it’s not first time..hope things will change positively
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  • GoatMamaGoatMama 1378 replies12 threads Senior Member
    I'm sorry, @psparent! It seems we all need to be on pins and needles until our kids are grown adults, and even then. I wonder if the school had a clearly communicated written policy for dealing with these kinds of issues. Was your son's punishment strictly according to policy? I also wonder, in these situations, is there even a possibility for the family to get involved?
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  • carpoolingmacarpoolingma 796 replies8 threads Member
    @CaliMex What a chilling perspective.

    About empty houses...avoiding BS does not help with this. There are plenty of houses that are parent-less for a weekend or weeks at a time in the burbs. And plenty of public school kids to party in the houses. Partying is not reserved for BS kids.
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  • EarlyMTNesterEarlyMTNester 74 replies2 threads Junior Member
    @psparent: Thank you for sharing your cautionary tale. I feel for your situation. I know that this has not been pleasant.

    Since you cannot go back in time or change anything, if you can, please try not to focus on the what-ifs or perceived unfairness of disparate treatment and, instead, embrace some of the positives related to this experience.

    First, be glad your school is not a one-strike school. If it had that policy in place, your son would have been moving out the next day, never to return.

    Second, hopefully, your son has learned important lessons about: personal responsibility, the higher standards expected of good leaders in the community, and the potential impact of his choices with regard to drug use.

    Third, although current acceptances might be suboptimal, he will be going to college, and will be well prepared to excel there. Transfer is always a potential.
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  • CaliMexCaliMex 2248 replies35 threads Senior Member
    edited April 2017
    @carpoolingma I think his point was that if you go to your local school and live at home, getting caught partying in an empty house won't be as high stakes... so picking a BS with fewer possibilities helps avoid those extreme situations / consequences that distort behavior.
    edited April 2017
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  • 123Mom456123Mom456 855 replies6 threads Member
    What does the schools rules and regulations say about this? My concern would be did the school follow their procedures. If the infraction happened off grounds, did the student return to the school while under the influence making it not just an off site incident? I think proactively notifying the colleges was a bit unusually but this would have had to been disclosed on the mid year report sent in January anyway.
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  • doschicosdoschicos 26832 replies269 threads Senior Member
    Among other wording, here's the exact wording from the SPS handbook: "Behaving in a manner inconsistent with the School’s expectations while away on a weekend and during vacations."

    I would assume that other schools would have something similar. Curious to know if that is not the case.
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  • PeriwinklePeriwinkle 3403 replies105 threads Senior Member
    @suzyQ7, "At a normal public school, getting caught with Alcohol or drugs OFF school property will have zero repercussions."

    Not true for athletes. http://www.westonschools.org/index.cfm?pid=24097
    MIAA Drug and Alcohol Policy:
    From the earliest fall practice date (the 3rd Monday in August), to the conclusion of the academic year or final athletic event (whichever is latest), on and off school grounds, weekdays and weekends, twenty-four hours per day, regardless of the quantity, use or consume, possess, buy/sell or give away any beverage containing alcohol (including products such as NA or near beer); any tobacco product (including e-cigarettes); marijuana; steroids; or any controlled substance as defined in the Massachusetts General Laws (Chapter 94-C, Sections 1-48). (NOTE: It is not, however, a violation for a student to be in possession of a legally defined drug specifically prescribed for the student's own use by his or her doctor.) It should be clearly understood that any gross violation of this rule, e.g., being drunk and/or disorderly, could result in immediate dismissal from the team.

    NOTE: Possession of alcoholic beverages on school property will be referred to the Weston Police Department for prosecution for violation of Massachusetts State Statutes (Chapter 272, Sec. 4A). Possession of any controlled substances on school property will result in criminal prosecution for violation of Massachusetts State Laws.

    The minimum PENALTIES per M.I.A.A. Rule 62.1 are:

    First offense: Suspension from representing the school for the next consecutive interscholastic contests totaling 25% of all interscholastic contests in that sport. All fractional parts of an event will be dropped when calculating 25% of a season. Students will be required to attend all practices and team meetings during that time. During this time frame, the student may not represent the school in scrimmages or jamborees.

    Second and subsequent offenses: Suspension from representing the school for the next consecutive interscholastic contests totaling 60% of all interscholastic contests in that sport. All fractional parts of an event will be dropped when calculating 60% of a season.

    Penalties shall be cumulative each academic year, and a penalty period will extend into the next academic year. That is, if the violation occurs outside a season of competition or if the penalty period is not completed during the season of violation, the penalty will carry over to the student's
    next season of actual participation, which may affect the eligibility status of the student during the next academic year.


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  • copperboomcopperboom 192 replies1 threads Junior Member
    ^this.... My DD and I just had this conversation over spring break. She went to Europe with her BS choir and I asked her how they handled the 18 year olds drinking- She showed me the above policy- I teased her- how do they possibly know- you were allowed to go off on your own to lunch and dinner?! She said its an honor system and you are expected to refrain from all drugs & alcohol while at SPS including over summer breaks- have the conversations with your teens-
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  • 123Mom456123Mom456 855 replies6 threads Member
    Form one boarding schools handbook:

    When students are suspended from XXXX, these suspensions will be reported to the colleges to which the students apply. In the case of seniors who are in the midst of the college process, these suspensions will be reported promptly following their return from the suspension. In addition, if a student’s record changes in some fundamental fashion, the school will report these changes to colleges.
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  • GnarWhailGnarWhail 298 replies17 threads Member
    If the whole thing went down as you described it, you can almost certainly be sure that others in similar situations at your kid's school would not have faced any discipline whatsoever. As it turns out, your kid had no friends in the administration at that school. Snitchy McSnitchface's snitching did not need to be acted upon by the school. For one, they didn't really have to believe Sr. Weasel, and certainly they were under no obligation to go nuts all over your kid's head the way they did. But they did. Arbitrary enforcement is one of the biggest dangers in a boarding school environment, and whether anyone wants to believe it, all enforcement is arbitrary because not everyone at every school is at TV's-own-Stannis-Baratheon levels of insane fanaticism for every single rule every single time for every single kid.

    What you should have expected from your kid's school was a search of the room because of a report of drugs. If it was clean, then the school should never have even asked him any more about it. Report, check, nothing found. Done. If your kid was Mr. Good Kid up until then and didn't have the demon weed in his room, he should have been given a pass. Without knowing any details, I will say with 100% certainty that similar scenarios have had wildly different outcomes at your kid's school for other students. That's the case everywhere. You believed your son was the sort of student for whom the school would be protective if at all possible. You were wrong.

    When faced with the possibility of major non-academic discipline, good advice is to tell your kids never to admit to anything major until they talk to you. If you and/or your kid have any friends at the school, get them up to speed and on your side ASAPy-like. Pull hard if you have any pull. (Of course, if you have real stick, then this never would be happening to your kid.) Read that rule book. Make sure the school is following their own rules. If a drug test is allowed by school rules, delay it as long as possible. Realize right then that the school is the adversary in this situation if you didn't see it before. Your kid is not important to them and never really was. If you have the means, get a lawyer on it.

    Boarding schools have lots of rules, and one of their functions is to be weaponized when needed to protect the school first and foremost. That's racing.

    Plagiarism and cheating are different animals all together. Expect no quarter, though of course cheating and plagiarism are as subject to arbitrary enforcement as much as any other infraction.
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