by Will C. '19
Senior Will C. recently spoke to Upper School students about Lakeside’s Judicial Committee, which deals with cases resulting from possible violations of school policies, as outlined in the Statement of Community Expectations and the school’s computer user agreement. Excerpts from his speech follow. For more information about the Upper School disciplinary process – including what situations are handled by administrators instead of the Judicial Committee – see pages 33-37 in the family handbook.
Hello! If you don’t already know me, my name is Will. I am a senior and I am the Chair of the 2018-2019 Judicial Committee (JC) … I, along with the other members of the JC, wanted to take this time to give an update and refresher on how the Judicial Committee works and what changes we made since last year.
First of all, I would like to introduce the 2018-2019 Judicial Committee. As always, it is composed of four students and two teachers. This year, representing the freshman, sophomore and junior grades respectively, we have Zane N., Jenny L., and Will V. As our teachers, we have Mr. McKinley, and Ms. Hersey. In case you forgot, these students, including myself, were voted upon by respective classes at the end of last year to serve upon the committee. Now I am going to be honest with you all: Zane, Jenny, and Will are excellent people, but I really hope I don’t have to interact with them on the JC this year. In fact, I hope this presentation is the last duty I have as the chair of the committee. Unfortunately, this will probably not be true. However, as the school year continues on, and you inevitably receive the foreboding “JC Announcement” emails, I would ask that the entire student body keeps a few things in mind.
Keep in mind that these decisions are not being made in some secret chamber on the fourth floor of Bliss, by robed figures hunched over a pentagram. These decisions are being made by Lakeside students and teachers that you know well. The Judicial Committee is not some sort of secret society that no one knows the workings of. The JC is composed of four students and two teachers who are looking out for both the best of the student and of the community. We are all Lakesiders and we were all chosen by Lakesiders, be it students or faculty. We are on the JC not to get other Lakesiders in trouble, but to improve and maintain the community we all learn in. I first ran for the Judicial Committee freshman year because I saw the JC as something I could do to make a definitive difference in my community. This year as a senior, I am still dedicated to making a positive change and I hope to leave Lakeside a better place than I found it. I’m sure each and every one of our members can attest to a similar reason.
As I was thinking about this presentation, I thought about the Judicial Committee my freshman year. I myself hardly remember the presentation given to us in Kent Evans concerning the proceedings of the Judicial Committee, so I figured it would be good to go over some of the things that go on in a JC meeting. First, if someone suspects the community expectations have been broken, they will go to [Upper School Assistant Director ] Ms. Benson. Ms. Benson will conduct an investigation and bring the facts of the case before the committee. Essentially, the student then writes up their explanation of the incident, called the Statement of Fact. The JC will read the Statement of Fact and come up with questions about the incident. The student then comes before the committee and presents their case. They are accompanied by an advisor. After the student leaves, the committee deliberates on their case. During this time, we discuss three questions: 1) Does this incident violate the community expectations? 2) If yes, does it merit a consequence? 3) If yes, what is the consequence? Sometimes the result is a couple hours of Just Desserts, sometimes it is talks with a trusted adult, and sometimes, yes, it is suspension. Freshman, in case you are still confused, we will have a class meeting soon to go over the proceedings in more detail.
OK, for the most part, we are done with the heavy, dreary stuff. I said the “s” word and we got that out of the way. Now that you all have a reminder about how the process works, I want to let you know about some stuff that is new this year. First, all JC members have undergone training to help us think about cases from multiple perspectives with our biases in mind. Earlier this month we met to go through training exercises. These training exercises allowed us to recognize that we all bring our experiences and backgrounds into the decisions we make. Furthermore, in order to make a recommendation that has both the learning of the individual student and the learning of the community in mind, we need to push ourselves and each other past our preconceived notions to come to a decision that is fair and considerate. Each one of us has a responsibility as a member of this committee and it is not taken lightly.
In addition to training this year, we will be meeting four more times, not to discuss a case, but to evaluate ourselves and the proceedings of the committee. This will allow us to check in with each other and discuss our duty in a non-disciplinary and focused setting. Likewise, starting this year, we will be receiving feedback from the students who come before us. Six weeks after a student comes before the committee, they will meet with Ms. Benson to write a reflection about their experience in the judicial process. This is not to make the student “relive” their experience or compliment the committee, but to provide the student with an opportunity for reflection, growth, and learning. It will also be a time for students to give their honest opinion on how they were treated in front of the committee. The committee will read their reflection and use it to improve the process.
Another new addition this year is the addition of alternates on the committee. The student alternates for this year are senior Kellen B. and junior Kaileah M. Ms. Goss will be the alternate for the teachers. The role of the alternates will be to ensure that there is never any conflict of interest with any case and that Ms. Benson, representing the administration, will never have to vote or give input on any case. All cases will be decided by a fair, impartial committee composed primarily of students.
After last year, there was a general demand for more transparency in the disciplinary process. We have worked to improve transparency, and this presentation itself is one of the things that is being done to help. However, on the topic of transparency, I would like to bring up the issue of confidentiality. Confidentiality is a huge part of the Judicial Committee. We are confidential in our proceedings not so that we can hide behind its cover or deceive the student body, but to protect the students involved in each case. With every case we see, there are always multiple sides to the story. I ask that the student body trust us, as your elected representatives and as your peers, to make the correct decision, knowing that we have all the facts in hand. If you believe we do not have all the facts in hand, approach Ms. Benson and have a talk. It is much more productive to talk to Ms. Benson about the truth than to gossip about it in the locker room. Last year, I was not on the committee, so was not party to the details of the cases. However, with my knowledge of the proceedings of sophomore year, I came to understand something about the vague emails being sent out: cases are not usually that interesting. Of course, each case is handled with the appropriate deliberation, and tough decisions often have to be made, but in the long run, the actual details of the case are not that interesting. The JC’s purpose is to provide a learning experience, both to the students involved and to the community. Thus, emails are sent out to the student body are sent for the sole reason of educating the community so that we may better ourselves and each other. So if you see a JC email in your mailbox, I ask you to take it as it is: not some juicy piece of gossip, or a challenge to figure out who was involved, but as an opportunity for yourself to grow and learn.
Closing this speech, I hope that you are not afraid of the Judicial Committee. I hope that you say hi to me when you see me on campus and know that I, along with all the members of the Judicial Committee are on your side. While it may be hard to imagine, the Judicial Committee was not formed to get you in trouble, but to represent students in the disciplinary process. With that being said, I don’t expect you to be happy if you come before the committee. Furthermore, I don’t expect that you will be happy if you are disciplined by the JC. What I do hope is that you leave the proceeding feeling that you presented your case and your truth and that it was received by fair and impartial ears. Going forward, if you have any questions or comments about the committee, please feel free at any time to talk to me or Ms. Benson. Thank you for listening.