Monday, January 7, 2013

Discipline in the Christian School

Discipline is one of the most controversial subjects in a Christian school.  On one hand, parents expect the environment to be "disciplined" in a general sense because kids need the guiding hand of authority to grow and develop into responsible, courteous, respectful adults.  On the other, they like a measure of grace to be present when their own children are subject to disciplinary action.  Not everyone agrees on the specifics of what that looks like, even when everyone insists that they are following Biblical principles. 

The purpose of disciplinary action in a Christian school is to make sure the learning environment is free from disruptions and distractions, and to teach students Biblical principles related to self-control and self-discipline as well as respect for authority.  Since we consider ourselves to be in a partnership with parents in providing educational services for their children, the element of discipline that the school administers aims to involve parents at a much earlier point than was required under our old policy.  The expectation is that the action we take will be corrective in nature, leaving the punitive side of discipline to parents. 

The new policies we have implemented removed most of the subjective language from the old policy, and clarifies the specific steps and levels involved in disciplinary action.  The first level of discipline is administered in the classroom.  This is designed to provide opportunities for the teachers to earn the respect they deserve as a result of their position, authority and education to perform their duties.  Consequences are issued for specific behavior noted by the teacher as being unacceptable in their individual classroom, but consistent with the expectations of teachers in other classrooms, and with the administration's expectations.  Students are referred to administration when their behavior issue exceeds the limits expected in the classroom and a determination is made that administrative support is required. 

Once referred to administration, the determination is made as to whether the behavior constitutes a minor or major violation.  These are specified in the discipline code.  Students may earn two minor violations before having to serve an after school detention, but must serve immediately if they receive a major violation.  Under the previous code, a student could be written up for as many as fifteen minor violations, and could serve as many as eight after-school detentions in a school year before their parents were contacted.  The limit is now four minor, two major violations, after which the parents will be contacted and asked to take further action at home in support of the school's efforts. 

Continued minor and major violations of the disciplinary code after parents have been notified after a student has served a second detention will involve cumulative consequences.  The student's status does not return to a "clean slate" if they have gone to the point where their parents have been called.  The next set of two minor violations, or one major violation, will initiate either an in-building suspension or a Saturday detention, depending on the circumstances, and beyond that, the student's future at PCS will be reconsidered.  There is no reason why a student should continue to be a behavior problem once the parents have been consulted initially unless nothing is being done at home to support the school. 

Mandated Confidentiality
All disciplinary action taken at PCS is confidential.  That is mandated by state law, as well as by school policy.  We strongly suggest to students who are recipients of disciplinary action at PCS to avoid discussing what happened, as well as the consequences, with anyone else.  And we encourage both parents and students, when they hear things related to disciplinary action that has, or has not, been taken, not to discuss what they've heard with anyone else.  The impression that a student did something and "nothing was done about it" may simply be a sign that confidentiality has been kept.  That's a good thing. 

Suspensions and Expulsion
Repentance, confession, redemption and restoration are key concepts related to Christian faith.  When students are exhibiting behavior that is well outside the boundaries of acceptable Christian practice, especially in a school environment where they are exposing other young Christians to their behavior, discipline decisions become extremely difficult.  I can't think of very many instances where removing a student who will ultimately wind up in the public education system is the best way to bring about a change in heart leading to a change in behavior.  But there are times when it must be done for the benefit of everyone else in the school.  These decisions, like all other disciplinary action, are undertaken with prayerful consideration given to every possible means of resolving the problem in a manner that is best for the student, the parents, and the rest of the school community.

As in other disciplinary situations, the confidentiality of the student is protected.  Any student who remains at PCS and who is under any kind of disciplinary probation has been given a list of requirements by which they can demonstrate the sincerity of their desire to be repentant.  And in most cases, even when a student is dismissed, after a period of time has passed, they are eligible for admission and re-enrollment under a specified set of conditions.  Each case is considered on its own merits, and by its own unique set of circumstances.  It is not easy to get back in after being dismissed, and that is by design.  But it is consistent with our commitment to Biblical principles to make the offer. 

Questions are Welcome
Any questions related to discipline at PCS, whether they are general questions about the written policy, or specific questions about ongoing discipline issues, are welcome.  They should be addressed directly to the administrator. 

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