By Ms. Miller’s Journalism Class Fall ’17
Wyoming Seminary Upper School’s disciplinary system has been a topic of ardent criticism in recent times. However, this criticism is largely a result of a misunderstanding. Opponents of the disciplinary system criticize its subjectivity, yet this subjectivity is the basis of an effective and personalized discipline system focused on individual growth. The Student Handbook clearly describes the policy as “a case-by-case basis with due regard for both specific circumstances and the welfare of the entire school community.” A community based on trust between teachers and students creates an environment in which students can develop and prosper.
Some cite inconsistency between punishments as a rationale for their criticism of the disciplinary system. However, according to Mrs. Catie Kersey, dean for Wyoming Seminary’s Class of 2019, “we emphasize the process more than the outcome.” This complements the Student Handbook, which vividly states “we [administration] do care about them [students] as maturing members of this community.” Sem’s process-oriented discipline system allows students to grow as a member of a community. While there may be inconsistency between outcomes, the process remains the same. When asked whether a student’s familial background is taken into account during the disciplinary process, Kersey replied “never.” Instead, the disciplinary process takes into account the student’s career at Sem and the circumstances of the offense. “Some students come to the disciplinary process with baggage, such as a past disciplinary history” Kersey notes, “but we weigh all pieces when making decisions”.
Wyoming Seminary isn’t alone in its unique disciplinary process: Phillips Exeter Academy, the number one private high school in America according to Niche, reaffirms the value of a unique, process-oriented system: “The Academy is a private school and, as such, its disciplinary system may differ from public school or official government processes.” Similar to Wyoming Seminary’s disciplinary board, they have a “disciplinary committee” that may lead to different outcomes for varying transgressions.
The alternative objective system would lead to a system that focuses on the punishment, rather than the person. “Wyoming Seminary’s policy focuses on”, Kersey explained, “the full picture.” Sem rejects a one strike policy, choosing instead to look at the whole student and allow them to learn from mistakes. In the words of Nick Ganter ‘19, “we’re given second chances when dealing with mistakes.” Teachers at Wyoming Seminary know that, as Kersey states, “we’re dealing with teenagers who will make mistakes”. A subjective policy can most effectively allow students to learn from transgressions and grow as people. As opposed to an adversarial process, Wyoming Seminary’s process is centered on students and teachers working together to create an outcome that works for each student.