Westridge Introduces New Detention Policy
Cale S. '21, Liv B. '21, Cara W. '21 Nica K. '21 and Phoebe J. '21 in Thursday detention
October 1, 2019
September is the time to welcome new members of the community: new staff, new faculty, new students, and this year, a new disciplinary policy: detention. From the Student/Parent Handbook 2019-20:
Detention may be earned for behaviors such as skipping a class, class meeting, assembly, or other community gathering without permission, as well as repeated tardiness, being out of uniform, missing an assigned detention, or rude behavior. A student who receives three detentions in an academic year will receive a letter of behavioral warning. Students who continue to accrue detentions will face more serious disciplinary consequences. Seniors who receive two detentions in an academic year will have their senior privileges suspended.
Even though the new policy is in response to faculty and administration’s frustration about lack of consequences for behavioral violations, dress code violations appear to be the main reason for the new policy.
“We implemented detention because, to put it plainly, we were consistently having pretty egregious problems with kids being out of dress code...The feeling was that there had to be some sort of teeth in this,” said Gary Baldwin, Director of Upper School.
Baldwin described the nature of detention as more of a symbol than a punishment. “The goal here isn’t to be punitive, and detention, as far as punishments go, is a pretty mild one...But [it’s] the symbolism of it, and we are saying, ‘Look, you have standards in this community that we want everyone to live up to, and we keep telling you this is one that matters.’”
Without a midway solution between expulsion, suspension or a warning, faculty like Dean of Student Support Bonnie Martinez haven’t felt like they can make students adhere to the dress code. “There are times when we have needed a little something to make students follow the few core rules we have.”
English teacher Katie Wei discussed why detention was necessary for teachers as well as students. “We needed to figure out how to navigate the uniform issue knowing full well that students are always going to be out of uniform but feeling like we had no recourse when students were out of uniform.”
Student responses have been mixed. Some understand detention as a necessity, but others have expressed less enthusiasm. “I understand why the administration put the policy into place, and honestly, it’s much needed,” said Phoebe J. ’21, who recently served a detention due to dress code violation.
Lily N. ’20 echoed Phoebe. “I think detention makes logical sense because a lot of schools have detention and I understand it. However, I feel like making students sacrifice their lunch is a little extreme because Westridge has not tackled an issue like this before.”
Technically, students are allowed to eat lunch. However, they cannot schedule meetings, make up assessments, or sit with friends. Students who serve detention report to RB50 on Thursdays for 40 minutes. They cannot use any devices, including laptops, and must work silently.
As for the effectiveness of detention, students have admitted the new policy has made them more conscious of what they decide to wear each morning. “I can’t promise that [I will be in dress code in the future], but I also don’t want to get detention again, and I think it is a great threat that I will keep it in mind when putting together my next outfit,” said Phoebe J. ’21.
Others, like Grace N. ’20, worry similarly about the prospect of being dress coded and given detention. “I definitely feel much more doubtful of the things that I once thought were in dress code. I’m much more cautious because I feel like certain teachers will be like, ‘That’s not the right overall shade we were all talking about.’”
The effective impact of the new policy has yet to be determined, given that students have only been in school for a month. Bonnie Martinez said, “This is an experiment, and we’re trying it out this year.” The jury may still be out regarding the effectiveness of detention in addressing student infractions. However, other solutions to the issue of dress code have been and continue to be discussed.
Last year, Laura Hatchman, Chair of the Science Department, proposed an Honor Coding Council. “We had a task force established called the Honor Coding Council. We spent the year talking about the value of honor code and what other schools do with honor code, and at the end of the year we came up with a draft about what our honor code would be and then what council would entail.”
Although the administration didn’t appoint an Honor Coding Council this year, there’s a possibility for a council in the future. Hatchman believes in the benefits of an honor council but explains that administration has yet to evaluate the effectiveness of detention.
“I think it’s yet to be seen; the thing I like about honor council is that it puts the power with the students. I think that peer judgement will make more of an impact than teachers or admin handing out detentions potentially, but we’ll see,” said Hatchman.