by Justin Zhang '19
The St. Mark’s disciplinary process is rarely discussed amongst the student body. Students are reminded of the Student Discipline Committee and its disciplinary responses announced in school meetings. Nevertheless, many discipline violations do not result in the typical SDC that students are familiar with. This article aims to provide a comprehensive overview of the discipline process, including different levels of offenses and discipline responses to those offenses.
At St. Mark’s, school rules are established under core values of community living: respect, safety and honesty. Students and parents are required to sign a document confirming their understanding of community policies before the beginning of each school year. Many school rules surround these three tenets of community living.
Breaches of school rules are separated into three levels in terms of the severity and nature of those offenses. A violation of minor school rules including “casual lying, disobedience of faculty instructions, use of tobacco products, gambling for money, unauthorized use of heat-producing appliances (Coffee makers, rice cookers, water kettle, etc.), and unauthorized possession of prescription medicine” is considered a Level III offense and makes a student liable for Dean’s Warning. Dean’s Warning serves as a notification for students that another violation of minor school rules might lead to sitting before the SDC. It is important to note that, as stated by the Student Handbook, a second Level III offense violation by a student within one academic year is considered a Level II offense, in other words, a violation of major school rules. “Deliberate lying of a single offense, knowingly being in presence of marijuana, drug paraphernalia or alcohol, tampering with school property, being off campus without permission, unauthorized visitation, unauthorized use of vehicles, and academic dishonesty” are all violations of major school rules and are considered Level II offenses. A student who has a Level II offense is most likely to be placed on Dean’s Final Warning, meaning that a subsequent offense of major school rules to occur while the student is placed on Dean’s Final Warning will automatically result in an SDC hearing. However, students with Level II offenses may also be brought before the SDC as all Level II offenses leave students liable for suspension. A Level I offense is the most severe breach of major school rules and will make the responsible student liable for dismissal. Level I offenses include blatantly rude behavior toward other members of the community, vandalism, possession of firearms, bullying in any form, possession or knowingly being in presence of illegal drugs, distribution of drugs or alcohol, and repeated academic dishonesty. According to the Student Handbook, “a second violation of a Level I or Level II at any time during a student’s St. Mark’s career” and “any Level II offense compounded by lying about that offense.” are all considered a Level I offense.
Students who violate major school rules (Level I and II offenses) will almost certainly be brought before the SDC. However, the decision on whether to hold a SDC hearing is made by the Dean of Students, or the Dean of Academics, and the Head of School by first determining the nature of the violation. Once a SDC is deemed appropriate, both the responsible student and the faculty member that reported the violation will write statements to the SDC concerning the event. During the SDC meeting, the committee will hear an account from the responsible student, a statement made by the student’s advisor on behalf of the student and from a peer character witness who also speaks on the student’s behalf. The entire process is completely confidential and only open to those present in the meeting. The SDC then examines the situation and recommends an appropriate response to the Head of School. Each SDC member is allowed to have individual opinions on the penalty, however, the Head of School will make the final decision. Students who are suspended will be sent home for four academic days. Students who are dismissed will have to leave campus as soon as possible and not allowed back on campus without specific permission from the School.
In terms of the disciplinary process’ influence on the college application process, the College Counselling Office must notify colleges on expulsion or withdrawal of a student in their sixth form year, as well as any suspension during their St. Mark’s career. If a student is suspended after college applications are submitted, that student is required to write a letter to colleges informing them of the disciplinary infraction. In short, expulsion and suspension are the only disciplinary responses that are reported to colleges.
It is important to keep in mind that there are resources available for students to avoid such disciplinary responses in the face of school rule violations, such as FASTeam and sanctuary. FASTeam is a tool for those who are concerned about other students in the community to prevent that student from getting into any disciplinary trouble while also providing that student with the appropriate help they need through counseling. Sanctuary, on the other hand, applies when a student’s health is at risk while using drugs or alcohol on campus. “Students brought to Health Services under Sanctuary conditions will not come before the Student Discipline Committee, they will be held accountable for their behavior through meetings with the School Counselor.”