As the clock strikes 3:30 p.m., the final bell sounds. A throng of students flood the hallways, eager to escape from the authority that school has over them. Excitedly, they discuss where to meet up over the weekend, all the while unaware that they haven’t fully escaped the grasp of school.
“Wait, what? The school can really do that?” asks senior Gabby Opagi in surprise after being informed of Rosslyn Academy’s policy on student life outside of school. The policy states that the school can intervene in students’ out-of-school activities if they pose a threat to an individual’s learning process. When students join Rosslyn, their parents sign a basic tenant form declaring that while attending the school, students must uphold Rosslyn’s values and abide by certain standards both in and out of school. If this is not followed, the school can address the situation.
The most common cases in which the policy is enacted is when students are doing drugs or alcohol and this is brought to the attention of the school. “These actions sometimes carry over into school,” says school psychologist, Dr. Joanne Heugel. By implementing the policy when the “misconduct” only occurs on the outside, it is easier to ensure that it doesn’t find its way into the school, where other students are more likely to be influenced. Dr. Heugel addresses the fact that the school doesn’t go looking to get students in trouble. She comments that the school is made aware of a student’s actions mostly through complaints (when the misconduct occurs out in the open) or when a student posts something harmful on Facebook and those posts are forwarded to a member on staff.
With regard to consequences, if the matter occurs outside of school, both the students and their families are talked to. However, if the issue spreads into the school, administration deals harshly with students. “Unless it is really affecting the educational environment, the school tends to handle the issue in a more mentoring capacity than a disciplinary one,” says Dr. Heugel.
Some see the policy as the school simply being a nuisance and trying to assert control over all areas of student life, however Dr. Heugel states that the policy is in place “Not to allow the school to meddle unnecessarily, but to ensure that Rosslyn’s image outside is maintained by student actions.” “If you think about issues like bullying outside of school,” continues Dr. Heugel, “what it does is allow us to intervene with that, and even though it may not occur on campus, it does affect the learning environment”. When asked whether the school has received backlash regarding the policy, Dr. Heugel answers, “Typically, if we get any backlash, it is from students. Parents tend to like it.” This is most likely due to the fact that many parents aren’t aware of what their kids are doing until the issue is addressed by the school.
To gauge student views on the matter, several students were interviewed. “I don’t think that the school has a duty to know what we’re doing outside of school,” says senior Christian Park. “Although the students attend Rosslyn, it doesn’t become the school’s job to intervene;that should be left to parents.” Several other students expressed their dislike of the code: “There should be a separation between school and personal life. The school is not justified in interfering with our lives when we leave. Our personal lives are none of their business,” comments Nicole Githinji, a student. “I see the school’s point,” says Gabby Opagi, “but it seems like a way to pry. There should be exceptions in that if the situation, such as partying, is not affecting anyone else but the people involved, then interference is unnecessary.” Another factor that plays into the negative views is that many students are unsettled due to the fact that it is their parents who sign the tenant forms previously discussed, and not them. Because of this, many students are unaware that their actions outside are held to certain standards and feel that their parents’ signature on the forms does not echo their own sentiments.
In contrast to the large number of students against the policy, there were only a few who saw it in a positive light. “Cases of cyberbulling or bullying in general are a huge issue that have affected people in the school. In situations such as those, it’s definitely a good policy for students’ growth and education,” says junior Cheney Garner. The few students who agreed with the policy’s stance stated that overall, the policy is a good thing because it looks out for the students’ best interests, regardless of the situation. “Some people will think that it intrudes on personal space, but I think that the school has a good mindset in knowing whether they’re crossing the line or not,” Cheney explains.
As made evident from the statements of the majority, most of us think that once we leave the school gates, the school has no jurisdiction over us. The fact that school does in fact still dictate some of our decisions outside its gates is what makes many of us so upset. We live in a world where school consumes our lives, and amidst the hustle, it’s nice to think that there is some environment that school can’t touch. When the concept of a school-free environment is threatened, so are we.
Regardless of varying opinions, the questions still remain—does the school overstep its boundaries through the implementation of this policy? Because we attend the school, are we bound to live according to its beliefs, even though we may have our own differing beliefs? Does a separation between our personal lives and school really exist?