The following is a response to two student editorials on the recent change to the school’s handbook policy regarding “zero-tolerance offenses.”
To see an explanation of the original decision, click here.
First off, I wanted to take the time to thank Danielle Woo and Alex Mai for their well-thought and articulate editorials. As I stated in my piece of this week’s Eagle Eye, I want our students to feel empowered to voice concerns and questions in an appropriate and constructive way. As Danielle’s piece made clear, any approach to the zero-tolerance policy would have resulted in people being unhappy. It’s an interesting exercise to consider if people would have complained about the school being too strict and legalistic had all the students involved in the third quarter been dismissed. I’d also like to offer some more insight to the ideas they expressed in these editorials.
- Alex made an excellent point about the punishment for this particular incident. All the students were given the option to return to school, and in many ways coming back might have been a more difficult choice than getting a fresh start somewhere else. The consequences that these students received were severe, and we are looking into additional tools and responses for the future to work with our students and help them learn from bad choices.
- As Alex also mentioned, there is an argument to be made that changing the policy in response to student misbehavior showed a lack of integrity. However, one could also argue that this would have been an easier response. By even engaging in the discussion to change the rule, everyone involved knew that we were making our lives MUCH more difficult. The fact that the administration chose to have the discussion on amending the policy reflects a different kind of integrity: the willingness to make an unpopular or difficult decision to achieve the school’s mission more effectively.
- Both of these pieces focused on the concept of grace as a foundation for the school’s decision. While this heavily factored in to the decision to change the policy, it was not the only criteria or factor that led to the policy change. There were many considerations that the school administration took into account, and the notion of grace or forgiveness was just one of them.
Although grace wasn’t the only factor at the heart of this policy change, it will be a factor moving forward. In the end, it is the students who will have the best chance to model Christ’s love and grace. We’re giving our students an opportunity to live out the radical faith that our school holds central to its existence. Whether or not you personally find this policy decision appropriate, you have the chance to treat everyone on campus with respect, gentleness, and peace, even when they have made decisions that have hurt you or those close to you. This is a powerful way for our students to reflect what is best about HBA and live out the powerful message found in the life and words of Jesus. It may not be fair to ask this of teenagers, but this is your chance to make our school a special place.
[one_third]Whether or not you personally find this policy decision appropriate, you have the chance to treat everyone on campus with respect, gentleness, and peace, even when they have made decisions that have hurt you or those close to you. [/one_third]
Possibly my favorite section of the Bible is Luke 15. I’d encourage you to reread it if you aren’t familiar with it. In this chapter, Jesus gives some powerful stories of things being lost and then found again. Hopefully we are all familiar with the story of the Prodigal Son, or the parable of the woman who lost a coin. These stories end with a great celebration for even the smallest things that were missing. I love the idea of being at a school where every student is welcomed and valued. Sometimes our students will make wrong choices, and my hope is that we can work as a community to restore what has been lost. This may not always be the case, and there is the chance that students will be dismissed in the future. However, our goal is that this shift in a specific policy leads us closer to this picture that Jesus lays out, because as Danielle so clearly reminded us, we are all sinners who need grace and mercy. I strongly believe that this experience will be a big positive for us as a school to evaluate our mission and how we can best achieve that mission. Feel free to come and talk to me or email me with more follow up questions or concerns.
Mr. Ryan Frontiera, HBA High School Vice Principal