It was 8:00 a.m. on a school day in fall 2022 when a GDS student entered room 121 to face a committee of nine people. The group, known as the Disciplinary Consultation Committee (DCC), convened to decide whether to punish the student for an altercation he was involved in a week prior.
Last year, freshman dean Anike Oliver saw the student shoving a classmate and immediately called him into a meeting with her and senior dean Anna Howe. The deans “didn’t just get a statement from me; they asked a ton of questions and wrote it all down,” he said.
The student, whom the Bit will refer to as Nolan, spoke on the condition of anonymity. Nolan feared further disciplinary action by administrators for talking about the confidential case. Some details about the case, including Nolan’s grade, have been omitted to protect his identity.
A week after the meeting with Oliver and Howe, Nolan said, Oliver told him that the grade deans had decided the “best course of action was to put me in front of the DCC.”
The deans wrote a case report for the DCC based on Oliver’s and Howe’s first interview with Nolan. The 2023-2024 DCC Charter, emailed in May to high school students by Assistant Principal for Student Life Quinn Killy, states that case reports include relevant information and interviews collected by class deans.
“In every DCC case, you get the document [case report] the day of the meeting, and you read it in a room with everyone else who’s serving that day,” Mila Noshirvani ’23 said in an interview with the Bit this year. “You then take notes and prepare questions,” she added. Noshirvani served on the DCC last year but declined to comment on specific cases.
“After we have a chance to read the document, the dean who conducts interviews comes in and gives everyone serving that day an opportunity to ask questions about the case before the student comes in and gives a statement,” Noshirvani said.
According to a student currently on the DCC, the notes committee members took during their DCC case were shredded after the case’s completion. The student spoke to the Bit on the condition of anonymity to avoid punishment for speaking about the specifics of DCC cases, which are meant to be kept confidential.
Nolan said he was surprised that the notes the deans took during their interview with him were given to DCC committee members. He could not recall whether the deans told him in advance that they would share their conversation. “They kind of just took my words,” he said.
Nolan was given the option to appear at his DCC hearing and give testimony or have the committee determine a course of action without him there.
The DCC charter states that if a student decides to appear before the DCC, they will be accompanied by a GDS faculty member of their choice, usually their advisor.
According to the charter, “the role of this person is to support the student in question. The role of the advisor is not to argue or speak on the student’s behalf, to plead or present possible outcomes, or to add narrative to the student’s statement or the DCC questions.”
Nolan told the Bit that he decided to attend the DCC meeting and give a statement about the incident. Nolan said he asked one of his teachers to come. “But they weren’t really allowed to do much except be there for emotional support, which I didn’t really need,” he said.
“I arrived at the room, and students and the teachers were looking over my case,” Nolan said. “Then I was called in, and I had to give my testimony.”
During his hearing, Nolan said that DCC co-chair and History Department Chair Cliff Coates asked most of the questions. He could only recall two questions being asked by a student on the committee.
Nolan said that most of the questions Coates asked him were focused on “little things” that he had said in his interview with Oliver and Howe. “I think he was probably trying to catch me in a lie,” he added.
Coates and the other DCC co-chair, science teacher Greg Dallinger, declined to comment.
The anonymous student serving on the DCC said that most questions usually come from students and that their goal in asking questions is usually to gain a greater understanding of the student’s intentions. In particular, the student said that committee members are looking to see if the student feels remorseful.
Nolan said he thought the DCC outcome was fair but that the case was unnecessary. He declined to share with the Bit the outcome of his case because he believed it would identify him. “Personally, I didn’t see the need for me to go to DCC, because it was not really that bad,” he said, referring to the incident that caused him to go before the DCC. “I see stuff like what I did happen all the time,” he said, adding that the person he shoved “wasn’t even hurt.”
The DCC is composed of two faculty chairs, all of the grade deans and 18 student members. Six students represent each of the sophomore, junior and senior classes, with two elected by vote and four appointed by a faculty committee. The faculty committee consists of the DCC faculty chairs, the director of diversity and inclusion and all of the grade deans. Students’ terms last one year.
One faculty chair serves on each case, along with two grade deans and two student DCC members from each of the three grades. The faculty chairs serve on cases on a rotating basis, and the deans and students on any given case are chosen randomly.
Noshirvani noted that if a case relates to sexual assault or bullying, it does not fall under the DCC’s jurisdiction. The DCC will only hear a case on academic integrity if it is the student’s second offense.
The DCC charter states that for each case, the committee will either agree unanimously on a consequence or submit two possible consequences to High School Principal Yom Fox. Fox will then decide to accept one of the recommendations or propose a different punishment for the committee to re-evaluate.
“If the HS Principal and DCC are unable to come to an agreement as to the proper disciplinary action,” the charter states, “the case goes to the Head of School for review and consideration. The Head of School has the final say as to disciplinary outcomes.”
The DCC member interviewed by the Bit said “it varies a lot” whether the faculty or students are the driving force behind the committee’s decision. They declined to give an example of a case where the faculty had a large influence on the decision.
Duncan Edwards ’20, who served on the inaugural DCC in 2020, told the Bit that most decision-making was faculty-driven. “They ultimately had the final say; they were the ones scripting the recommendation,” he said.
Fox said that when she is reviewing the DCC’s recommendations, she is looking for “equity in outcomes.” She said one reason she might send a case back for the DCC to re-visit would be because the recommended consequences were significantly different from the recommended consequences for other, similar cases. Fox did not tell the Bit how often she has sent back cases for the DCC to re-evaluate.
Edwards told the Bit that knowing that the principal could overrule a committee decision or send it to the head of school made his role as a DCC member feel “redundant.”
“Going into the job, you knew you weren’t going to be the end-all be-all,” Edwards said. However, he added that he understood why administrators had the final say in disciplinary cases. “What do I know compared to administrators, who have lived entire lives?” he said.
According to Killy, the idea for a disciplinary student council was originally proposed six or seven years ago by a student who researched it for their senior quest. At the time, Killy said he was staunchly against the idea. “I was not a huge fan of it. But I did a lot of research, and we talked to a lot of schools, and I think we came up with a model here that’s pretty good for GDS,” he said.
Edwards appreciated the inaugural committee’s efforts to give students insight into the disciplinary process. “I was curious why certain students got punished a certain way and other students didn’t get punished in a certain way,” he said. “DCC was really good at giving students input, and I think that’s a really GDS kind of thing.”
A student at Landon who served on that school’s honor council told the Bit that the council is entirely composed of students, but it only deals with trials that involve academic integrity. The student spoke to the Bit on the condition of anonymity to speak candidly about his thoughts on the honor council.
According to the student, the honor council decision is subject to review by the school’s Director of Ethics and Leadership, but “I’ve never heard of him not agreeing with the punishment,” he said.
The Landon student said that the student body president reads the decisions made by the honor council for each of its cases. He informs the students of the violation and punishment without naming the student on trial. “It’s sort of to humiliate the kid,” the former council member said. He added that it is easy to figure out who the student on trial is given the small size of the school.
Killy told the Bit that if administrators updated students and teachers on the decisions made by the DCC, it would be akin to a “public shaming.”
“I don’t know the value in any and every mistake that anybody makes being made public,” Fox said.
“I think there’s a lot of transparency about DCC procedure,” Killy said. “I mean, you can read everything and see all the procedures in the charter, which is publicly accessible. If we did a weekly ‘Hey, GDS, we had three cases,’ everyone would try to figure out exactly who we were talking about.”
Edwards said he enjoyed the secrecy of the DCC. “There was an allure of mystery around it, which seemed cool back in high school,” he said.
According to the DCC member who spoke to the Bit anonymously, Killy expressly forbade members of the committee from sharing the number of cases they have served on with the Bit.
Killy told the Bit that he thought there has been an increase in DCC cases in recent years, but he was unsure about the exact numbers.
Alex Gerson ’23, who was a sports editor for the Bit, said he was not called for any cases during his year-long term on the DCC. He noted that his term was during his sophomore year, when school was taught virtually. Gerson said he thought it would be harder to catch students cheating over Zoom.
Edwards told the Bit that he only served on one case during his one-year term on the DCC. The case was for a student who sent an all-school email. Edwards said he and other DCC members did not think the case warranted a disciplinary hearing because they thought the issue was minor. “We were trying to hold back laughter,” he said. Edwards declined to share with the Bit the name of the student in the case and added that he could not recall the outcome of the case.
“I think the administration made it very clear that you have to take this very seriously,” senior Oliver Thomas said. “What happens in DCC hearings and discussions stays in DCC hearings and discussions.” Thomas served on the DCC his sophomore year and is currently the Bit’s Head of Distribution.
All members of the DCC go through a day-long workshop that includes training on implicit bias, ethics and procedures, according to the charter. DCC members also participate in mock disciplinary hearings.
Killy said that lawyers, Head of School Russell Shaw and Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Marlo Thomas attend the DCC training to talk about confidentiality, ethics and bias, respectively.
“We were trained to look at the situation more holistically,” Noshirvani said. She added that DCC members were trained to have every decision include a reflective consequence, consisting of an apology, for example, and a punitive consequence, resulting in a student’s suspension or another punishment.
“We’re supposed to give consequences that have a learning aspect to them so people are less inclined to make those mistakes in the future,” Noshirvani said.
Senior Julian Montes-Sharp, the Student Staff Council (SSC) president, told the Bit that he thinks “it’s really important that student voice be involved in disciplinary decisions. What makes it cool that GDS has something like DCC is that there is an element of student autonomy.”
Edwards had a different interpretation of the role of the DCC. “I don’t think the DCC is about autonomy; I think it’s about giving administrators more perspective from a student’s lens,” he said. “Going into the job, you knew you weren’t the end-all be-all — you were just an opinion.”
“Students don’t have autonomy because Yom [Fox] and Russell [Shaw] always have the final call, but I think that’s probably a good thing; students don’t run the school,” Gerson said.
Killy said he and the co-chairs have tried to make the environment in which the DCC student members deliberate “non-biased and non-pressuring.” In training, Killy and other administrators talked to DCC members about making sure “all voices are heard” in DCC hearings. He added that he thought in recent years there are “more kids’ voices that are involved in the process.
“I think the job of the DCC kids is super hard,” Killy said. “I think it’s probably harder for them than it is for any kid who comes in front of them, to some extent, because they know that they also have to walk down the hall and see the person who was in front of them.”
Freshman Ashwin Pathiyal said that if he went before the DCC, seeing a peer on the council would feel like a “betrayal.” He added that “it would be hard, being punished by a fellow student.”
Noshirvani told the Bit that students liked to make fun of and judge DCC members. “They think that it’s just tattle-tailing. People would tell jokes like ‘Don’t say that around Mila; she’s on DCC.’”
Gerson thought that seeing a student who had just gone before the DCC would be awkward. “Maybe that’s the point,” he said.
“I think the good and the bad of this is if I do make a mistake, I do have to go before my peers, and maybe I don’t want to make mistakes as much,” Killy said.