Top Secret at Dana Hall School

On a typical afternoon meeting of the Disciplinary Committee, you would find Ms. Ryan, Mr. Mather, Director of Upper School, two students leaders, and one faculty from Upper School—the Disciplinary Committee for the day—sitting around an oval table in the academic office’s conference room reading a one-page brief detailing the experiences student who has broken a rule. Let’s say it was a boarding student who went to an off-campus party and returned to her dorm inebriated, a breech of the school’s rules. The atmosphere would be very unusual for the Dana campus: everyone would be wearing a serious face, their mouths closed lightly in concentration; the room would be silent, except for a few whispers. And then the girl whose actions were under review would come into the room with her advisor.

One student remembers how her head hung forward, and tears flashed in her eyes. She stated that she understood how she had broken the school’s rule, and described the event in great detail. With a supportive glance from her advisor, the girl began to talk: her voice very soft and sad. Although the student frowned and seemed worried, her statement was clear and made sense.

Everyone on the Disciplinary Committee asked questions of the girl for clarification. With regret, the girl said, “If I can have a second chance, I will never do it again.”

Most students become a part of the Disciplinary Committee process because of academic dishonesty and dishonesty in sign-outs. Bullying, drug-use, smoking, and drinking are other reasons why some students end up sharing their stories before the Disciplinary Committee. The “process that we have put in place help[s] students to reflect on why they have made certain decisions,” says Ms. Ryan, the Dean of Students.

Because Dana Hall School is an all-girls boarding school it not only educates students academically, but, like all boarding schools, also educate students on the challenging matters of every day life. Boarding schools take on a parental role with students because they live with students and experience teenage problems by their side. Dana Hall’s Disciplinary Committee is the last, but critical step in helping students to foster moral decision-making skills.

The school year begins, at Dana Hall, with going over the Student/Parent Handbook to make sure that everyone understands the School’s codes of conduct. During the school year, Dana also provides peer education, advisors, and an informal residential curriculum to help students with every day issues. Dana requires students to take Forum class from 9th grade to 12th grade, and moral training is a component of the program to help students to make smart decisions.

Peer Education is another program that provides moral education, in a student-to-student format. Peer educators go to Forum class from 6th grade to 10th grade, and they sometimes hold X-Block meetings to encourage healthy lifestyle choices and to help students to make smart decisions. “I really feel that I harvest a lot [from peer educators], in relaxing ways, because they touch on matters that concern us the most, both as students and as teenage girls,” says by Angela Wang. Student leaders understand, first-hand, the pressures and moral choices that students must make, and, thus they can give lessons relevant to teenagers’ problems without distance.

Ms. Corrigan, the Dean of Residential Life says: “Everything within the boarding program is part of a developmental and lifestyle curriculum: dorm meetings and roommate workshops build skills and help kids to learn how to live together. We teach students to take responsibility for their personal care, and help prepare to guide them in their lives beyond Dana Hall.”

Dana Hall’s Advisors also patiently teach and guide students to make the right decisions. Ms. Gray, the Director of Development at Dana Hall, is also an advisor who thinks, “In my role as an advisor, my goal is to help guide students to be academically and emotionally successful at Dana Hall. Assessing consequences of decisions that an advisee has made and guiding her to use her moral compass is rewarding for me, and hopefully a lesson she will never forget.”

Each year, Dana Hall’s Disciplinary Committee consists of nine new student leaders. While the group’s goal is to help students to make better decisions in the future, Ms. Ryan says that they “really try to help students to learn from the experience with Disciplinary Committee; the consequences [the Committee delegates] aim to reflect that.” When Disciplinary Committee decides on a consequence for the violation of a major school rule, “both the students and faculties have an equal say, which helps us understand the situation a lot better,” says Ms. Ryan. So peers and teachers help determine if the punishment is too heavy or not, and help to educate the student together.

In the middle of each proceeding, the Disciplinary Committee discusses a list of punishments, which attempt to teach the student about better behavior. The school gives a second chance to students, in most cases, and the DC helps students to recognize their mistakes and correct them. All students who go through the process also write a self-criticism statement to reinforce their own learning process. Dana Hall School is “ very mindful that Disciplinary Committee is an education process,” Mr. Mather says, “we allow individual learn from her experience and then move on beyond that.”

Students have mixed attitudes toward the disciplinary process: while some think it is fair, “because the committee gave a punishments that matched the consequences of my mistake,” others think the process is unfair because the Disciplinary Committee does not think enough about the student’s point of view; “I don’t get why they give a lot heavy punishments that make me look bad in front of colleges.” Add to that, the fact that some students are not comfortable with the teachers-peer because “students leaders are sometimes inclined to follow a teacher’s idea, and they sometimes tell other students about my experience.” However, other students think that having peers on the committee has a benefit because “they can see some perspectives that teachers ignore.” Many of these complaints are open to dispute; if students are not satisficed with structure and process of the Disciplinary Committee, they can “go to student leaders and talk with them; but [a new solution] only works when everybody sees the benefit of it,” says Mr. Mather.

The Dana Hall School is not only asking students to obey the rules, but also to learn the spirit behind the rules, which is the School’s larger purpose. Obeying all the rules or going through Disciplinary Committee are paths to reach the spirit behind rules. As Mr. Mather says, “Let students, as members of our community, recognize that we value those choices that are representation of our best self as a community.”




Comments are closed.