Prep school disciplinary policy re alerting colleges

As luck would have it, on our flight back from visiting schools I was seated next to a man who had graduated from a HADES school. He did NOT send this kids to BS precisely because of the strict disciplinary policies in which the stakes are so high for kids being caught pushing boundaries, which is what the adolescent brain is programmed to do.

He said it could really distort kids’ development. That by senior year, kids at BS become extraordinarily good at managing two very distinct selves, one for adult consumption and one for peers. He said it made them absolute masters at keeping secrets and hiding things. (But that it didn’t keep them for partying hard). He claimed it made them less likely to go to adults for help, too because it turned adults into the police. The stricter the policies, the more underground the kids’ go with their behavior.

He chose to keep his kids at home because he wanted them to know that they were loved even if they made mistakes and faulty decisions. He didn’t think minor offenses deserved punishments that might have longer term consequences that didn’t fit the crime.

I had NEVER thought about things from that perspective. Would love @sadieshadow and anyone else with insight into adolescent development.

He did say that if he sent his kids to BS, he would avoid his alma mater and any school with easy access to empty houses nearby (meaning access to country homes or homes left empty due to traveling parents.)

@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.

@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.

@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.

At a normal public school, getting caught with Alcohol or drugs OFF school property will have zero repercussions. I am really bothered by the OP’s story. I agree all the punishment given the student is appropriate EXCEPT the part where they report off campus activities to colleges - especially for a first time offense. I think this s ridiculous.

That’s not entirely true. You might not have any repercussions from the school but there will be consequences- in most States parents are responsible for all minors in their homes- house parties can and will cause parents a lot of money and sometimes court time- Many, many teens get arrested in our area every weekend for drugs, parties, drunk driving, drunk boating… it def. affects college results as well-

i think the catch is the drug test… if the school has the right to ask for a random drug sample at any time, then it wouldn’t matter where he smoked the pot. As an RA he would know this. I have heard stories of entire dorms having random drug screenings ( and yes, mostly boys dorms) bc there were rumors of drugs-

When we looked at schools one of the conversations we kept having was about the age of the repeaters. While it makes the earlier years (maturity) & sports ( size/experience) easier, I can not imagine being a late18-20 year old senior in a boarding school with dorm check in, without a car, limited dating, social stucture… I can only imagine the mess they can get themselves into! What are the BS doing to prevent the boredom of these otherwise young adults? It’s a real problem.
I personally “somehow” find myself driving my BS teen by her cinder block LPS the size of a Vegas Convention Center every time she’s home- like to remind her where she WILL go if she forgets her BS rules!

@psparent Sorry you and your child had to go through the stress inducing process of disciplinary action at boarding school. I echo what @EarlyMTNester suggested regarding transfer potential if desired. I’ve know quite a few BS kids who have transferred to more selective colleges after a successful start at the initial school.

Thanks for bringing an important subject to the forefront. It’s important for every child and parent to read and understand the school’s policy handbook. I think the process of notifying colleges of disciplinary action and of disciplining for violations for off-campus activity is fairly universal. As mentioned, it can be even more harsh for one strike schools and a reason I am not a fan of one strike policies. Teens do make mistakes and seem to have it wired into them to test boundaries and experiment.

It’s really easy to look at your kid when 13/14 and being the boarding school process and think, well, I’ll never have to worry about THAT stuff with Junior. And Junior might think that him/herself. 15/16/17/18, much different. I’ll be honest that with one of my kids we really sweated it out until kiddo crossed the graduation stage and was handed a diploma. Great kid (says mom) but a bit of an independent streak. Gave me extra gray hair. Like in all high schools, there will be drugs, drinking, sex, and silly stuff that just breaks rules. Some kids will cheat, plagiarize. You can look at some of the surveys and you’ll see that it is a sizable percentage that will engage in some kind of rule breaking behavior before they graduate. They all think they are smarter than they are and won’t get caught - until they do. Or someone else gets caught and they all go quiet for a little while out of fear and a reminder, but that only lasts so long. I do have sympathy for the school administration in trying to enforce rules. Without some harsh consequences, I’m sure all hell would break loose. It’s a tough call to make. One advantage to BS in my own days was that, unlike parents who could be fickle or emotional about punishments and thus inconsistent, at BS you knew the penalties as they were all laid out.

I’ve always said that BS starts off giving a kid more freedom than he/she would have at home at 14 but by the time they graduate it is usually much more restrictive than life at home and at public school. As far as public schools and partying, in my area, every year or two there is a big party busted by town police and kids get charged for underaged drinking. At least at BS, no one brings the cops in for your underage drinker or pot smoker.

It might be worth noting that you can always suggest your child call you before agreeing to anything or saying anything when confronted. I do know families who have “voluntarily” pulled their kid out before disciplinary action progressed. Not saying that is the right way to handle it, or the way your child will learn the most, but it is done.

As far as notifying colleges, I think it is done regardless of the offense whether it is marijuana, drinking, or cheating or plagiarism. How much colleges consider it a knock will depend on what it was and when the infraction took place. Make a mistake in 9th or 10th grade and one can successfully spin it as a learning experience. In 12th grade, it is every parent’s nightmare and much harder to justify in that way. I will also add that plenty of disciplined kids go on to very good colleges. It might not be the tippy top schools one had their heart set on, but they are still going to have wonderful colleges that will accept them and provide a great education. I know several examples of such from my kids’ friends and classmates. Doing well at fine institutions. In the big scheme of things, it wasn’t overly harsh or limiting to them.

Read those handbooks. Talk to your kids. Give them constant reminders. Be careful of what kind of permissions you give them for off campus gatherings. Those off campus gatherings and weekends can be bad news.

“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.”
There are things that BS are required by law to notify the police about, selling drugs and sexual assault being two off the top of my head. It’ll be a matter of public record. As far as the rest, as private schools you and your children agree to abide by the rules as laid down by the school. Make sure you understand what you are signing.

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.

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.

@suzyQ7, “At a normal public school, getting caught with Alcohol or drugs OFF school property will have zero repercussions.”

Not true for athletes.

^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-

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.

It just occurred to me we are appropriately discussing this on 4/20.

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.

Penalties can be more severe for boarding students misbehaving during term time, because they are officially under the school’s care, even when off campus. Day students, in contrast, are officially subject to their parents’ authority after school hours off campus.

There was an off campus party held by Concord Academy students many years ago. This article, written a year after the trial, does list the consequences the students faced:

In 2008, students from Phillips Andover were arrested, and expelled: I believe the deans did follow up on the names found in one of the dealers’ text messages.

@Gnarwhail, lying is grounds for expulsion. Read the school rules. If asked, not telling the truth is grounds for expulsion. As another student had already been questioned, of course, unless both students tell the same truth, there is the danger of expulsion.

And I will add, read your own school’s rules very carefully. In some schools, it is sufficient to leave the area if other students start using drugs and alcohol. At others, there is a duty to report the students.

If your child suspects his/her roommate of using or dealing drugs, you and they cannot turn a blind eye to the goings on. It is wise to speak up to the child’s advisor, and make sure you have a written trail, of your objections.

Keep in mind that tuition insurance will usually not pay if a student is expelled due to disciplinary infractions.

In general, schools give no quarter to students caught supplying substances to other stud This is often a trap day students will fall into, as friends may try to pressure them into dealing. If your child is a day student, talk seriously with them about the consequences.

Some schools also will have a sanctuary policy whereby another student, faculty member (or I believe even the student themselves) will be turned in “for their own good” as a way of getting help for said student. Sometimes, if a student knows he himself will be getting in trouble or another student knows (say they got word that Johnny was busted and they might be implicated), that student will arrange to have someone invoke the sanctuary policy and report them. Consequences still prevail - probation, testing for x period of time, counseling etc. but it doesn’t become a disciplinary action requiring going before the disciplinary council nor does it require reporting to college.

It’s designed to get a student help for medical/wellness reasons. But, it can be used as an escape hatch sometimes to avoid disciplinary action. I’ve known RAs who use it to protect students who have a high likelihood of getting in more serious trouble.

Of course, policies vary from school to school, but another reason to know the school’s handbook.

Personally, I wouldn’t send my kid to either a one strike school or a school without some kind of sanctuary policy.

@Periwinkle If the whole thing went down as it was described, the school had it in for the OP’s kid–or at least had no regard for him whatsoever. I specifically said that a kid should talk to parents before admitting anything in order to avoid lying. Some kids are better at stalling and prevaricating than others, but cracking right away and admitting everything before you might have to is never a good move, as this kid’s experience proves. Who are you gonna believe, the bad kid or Mr. Good Guy? But it should never have come to that. The school did its thing and searched the room. If it was clean, that should have been the end of it. Without having first-hand knowledge of this school (probably) or this case (very likely), I will say that students faced with similar scenarios have gotten off with no discipline at all if their rooms did not contain the evil substance in question because it happens all the time (not really) but regularly enough to establish a pattern. Some people get away with stuff and some don’t. That’s not cool for the ones that don’t.

It’s a tough situation, but it sounds like it was a perfect storm of unfortunate behavior on the part of the kid and the school.

And I will state unequivocally that if the entirety of the situation was as described by the OP, then the school was wrong in the way they handled this.

Frankly, if the kid in question was as described by the OP and no drugs were found in the room, the family should have expected (someone at) the school to make this go away for the kid. The simplest way would have been to ask the kid if they had drugs in their dorm room supplied by Snitchy McSnitchface. If the (truth) answer was no and none were found, that should have been the end of it. Nobody would have needed to lie and the message would have been sent.

Nobody wants to find out in the worst way possible that they are not of the elect, but inherently conservative elite institutions have their flaws, too.

Sanctuary usually, though, serves to put the student on a list of students who need to be watched more closely for drug and alcohol use. They may be subject to drug tests. They usually need to take part in some sort of counseling. It isn’t a “get out of jail free” card, more a notice that there is potentially a significant mental health issue.

I agree with doschicos that I wouldn’t send a child to a one strike school. I believe one strike policies serve to drive substance use underground. It still happens, but then fellow students are paralyzed, afraid of alerting adults to dangerous behavior because they don’t want to get someone else “in trouble.”

@GnarWhail, I apologize for being cynical, but there isn’t any proof that this is a “first offense.” The drug test would have shown pot use. The charge wasn’t possession of pot, it was use of pot.

And I do object to your describing the first student caught as Snitchy McSnitchface. That other student was also facing severe disciplinary consequences.