A product years in the making, GDS’s Disciplinary Consultation Committee (DCC) was widely accepted by the student body in its launch last month, but not immune to criticism. Expressed in an array of forums, feedback was bounced back and forth from students, parents, and faculty to the administration and its lawyers right up until election day for the committee.
The administration first put establishing a disciplinary council on its agenda years ago with the creation of a disciplinary task force designed to reexamine GDS’s approach to discipline. Then when current science teacher C.A. Pilling announced she was stepping down as High School Principal, the endeavour was cast aside so the new principal wouldn’t walk on it during her first year.
As Katie Gibson settled into her second year as High School Principal, she made the project a priority and established a firm timeline, ensuring the committee would be able to pilot at the start of 2019.
“One of the first things I heard a lot was that there was a lack of transparency and a feeling that disciplinary decisions happen in a vacuum with a small group of people,” Gibson noted while detailing how the need to reevaluate the school’s disciplinary procedures was made evident to her from the beginning of her interview process. “My first hope, Gibson said, is that in creating something that keeps students partnering with teachers, it will create a clearer process with transparency that will put student voices at the center of it.”
But before the DCC could be set into motion, Dean of Student Life Quinn Killy solicited feedback from the GDS community. As Killy sat down to talk to various student groups, faculty, and parents, he was pleasantly surprised by the overall positive reaction, although a multitude of students raised critiques.
“No matter what we come up with there will be people who won’t like it,” Killy said. “But most people who have viewed it in a critical way have come back with feedback.”
One of these students was senior Robin Forsyth who shared his concerns via an all-school email about the statute barring students from running for the DCC who have been subject to formal discipline from the school within the last 12 months. Forsyth worried that the policy would label students who fall under this category as “untrustworthy,” potentially discouraging their participation in the process and excluding the voices of those whom the system applies to most directly.
“I think that it’s a step in the right direction,” Forsyth remarked, referring to the DCC. But in addition to his primary concern that sparked the all-school email, Forsyth added, “I think [the DCC]it should have a lot more binding power and that there should’ve been more of a role for students in the drafting part of it rather than just in the approving of it.”
While Forsyth hoped to see the provision prohibiting select students from running removed, when election day rolled around on February 4, the policy was still set in stone. Now, Forsyth is pushing for a mechanism that will allow students to modify parts of the DCC charter, in the hope that students will be able to obtain more influence on the committee and better learn how to lead, a value he sees as core to the school’s mission.
At this point, Killy and Gibson are committed to taking a step back and seeing how the program rolls out but both emphasized that this semester was a pilot.
“I will guarantee that there is something along the way that will come up that we didn’t think of; I mean, it’s a pilot program,” Killy said. “I’m sure we will learn and make some modifications at the end of this year.”
Mica Maltzman ’20