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Prep school disciplinary policy re alerting colleges

psparentpsparent Registered User Posts: 49 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 Registered User Posts: 192 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).
  • HMom16HMom16 Registered User Posts: 313 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.
  • CenterCenter Registered User Posts: 1,451 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
  • AmyForeverAmyForever Registered User Posts: 30 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
  • GoatMamaGoatMama Registered User Posts: 767 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?
  • carpoolingmacarpoolingma Registered User Posts: 386 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.
  • EarlyMTNesterEarlyMTNester Registered User Posts: 76 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.
  • CaliMexCaliMex Registered User Posts: 470 Member
    edited April 20
    @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.
  • 123Mom456123Mom456 Registered User Posts: 677 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.
  • doschicosdoschicos Registered User Posts: 14,458 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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