Is There a “Sense of Community” in Campus Discipline?

Angie Leung, Copy Editor

The winter season is nearly ending — which means senior motivation is still dozing off in hibernation, plaid skirts are scandalously rising farther from kneecaps despite plummeting temperatures and the number of detentions is getting larger than that of my college rejections. Or, it could just be Schrader on a roll. 

From the beginning of the year when we forget to turn in the signature page of the Student/Handbook to the end of the year when we forget to clean our lockers, detention seems to be the go-to punishment for any of Presentation students’ trifle slip-ups. 

It’s no surprise that when Dean of Students Peggy Schrader advised students to adhere to the uniform policies after ordering a school-wide uniform check on Dec. 10 that the detention list skyrocketed to more than 30 students. 

“A Pastoral Approach” as Detailed in the Campus Discipline Policies

According to the Student/Parent Handbook, the Campus Discipline policies are derived from the Catholic mission and philosophy and “take a pastoral approach to discipline which aims to uphold and strengthen our strong sense of community.” The causes of detention include violations of the Technology Use Agreement, eating in the computer lab, multiple tardies or other school policy violations. 

Among the 39 students listed on the Dec. 10 detention list, 13 responded to a survey regarding their experience serving detention and opinion on the school’s general philosophy for Campus Discipline policies. 

In response to the Campus Discipline policy that wrote “We take a pastoral approach to discipline which aims to uphold and strengthen our strong sense of community,” eight students strongly or moderately disagreed that their detention experience reflected this philosophy; whereas, only two remained neutral. 

“There was no sense of community in what I did…I sat in the room and stared at the wall for an hour, and there was no talking. There was no doing homework, and there was no sleeping, so I just didn’t see the use or purpose of it,” a freshman student who received detention stated. “And I didn’t really know about what it said on the handbook, but that was really surprising, seeing that on the survey just because my experience was really not consistent with what that thought.” 

A teacher penalized the student with detention on the basis that her sweatshirt featured a logo spanning larger than one inch in diameter.

Despite how policies require students to check the detention list daily, all surveyees except one student admitted that they do not check the board every day. 

The Campus Discipline policies also require students who violate school rules to serve detention on the day of infraction regardless of conflicting after-school commitments as “no excuse will be accepted.” Absence from the mandatory detention or five accumulated detentions results in a 3-hour detention. 

Although the Campus Discipline policies outline that “daily detention is held from 2:45-3:45 p.m.,” the freshman commented that her detention started immediately after school at 12:45 p.m. As a result, was unable to buy lunch from the Center that closed by the time detention ended or study in the Study Center, as per her daily routine. 

Another senior who served detention for a violation of the Technology Use Agreement and uniform policies mentioned how the mandatory disciplinary action conflicted with her demanding sports commitment. 

“I would have practice every day, and I’d have to leave immediately after school to get there on time. Because I was younger, and I didn’t drive, I had to contact my coach, contact the people giving me a ride, contact my parents and let them all know what was going on,” she explained. “Then I had to figure out when my actual detention would be, and it created a lot of hassle for my life. It was stressful and embarrassing.” 

She argued that detention should, to some degree, take into account students’ after-school commitments, although she conceded that students need to demonstrate some responsibility for violating rules. 

What is the Purpose of Detention? Students Answer

Another issue the two interviewees raised was the lack of correlation between their detention experiences and their perceived purposes of detention. 

The senior, believing that “detention is the first step in disciplinary action” and that punishment should correlate to the infraction, argued, “Picking up trash has no relationship to the things that people get detention for, so it’s arbitrary, like, you have to do an unpleasant activity rather than addressing any sort of actual issue.” 

The freshman also cited inconsistency among the types of punishments students receive during detention, which was further reflected in the wide range of responses when surveyees were asked what they did while serving detention. 

Picking up trash has no relationship to the things that people get detention for, so it’s arbitrary, like, you have to do an unpleasant activity rather than addressing any sort of actual issue.”

— Anonymous

Among the 13 students who participated in the survey, five students collected trash on the school campus while others cleaned classrooms or the theater, assisted teachers or studied for final exams in the Study Center. 

Despite their different experiences of discipline, the interviewees both agreed that the Campus Discipline policies have room for improvement. Unless staring at a board or picking up trash aids in spiritual guidance at the expense of commitments to others, perhaps the “sense of community” that PHS prides itself on its detention policies should be reconsidered.