by Will V. '20
Senior Will V. 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. His speech follows. For more information about the Upper School disciplinary process – including what situations are handled by administrators instead of the Judicial Committee – see pages 36-40 in the family handbook.
Hi everyone, I’m Will V. and I am the chair of the Judicial Committee. Every year the chair of the committee gives this speech to remind all of you exactly what the Judicial Committee does. Now, I promise this isn’t a speech meant to scare any of you, first because this is an informative speech and second, because I don’t think I’m physically intimidating enough to do that. Let me tell you about the Judicial Committee.
I’d like to start by introducing the other members of this year’s committee. Each grade has a representative on the committee. As a reminder, each of these representatives were sponsored by two adults at Lakeside and elected by their peers at the end of last year. I am the 12th grade representative, Jenny L. is the 11th grade representative, Zane N. is the 10th grade representative, and unlike in the past where the 9th grade representative was elected by 8th graders at the middle school, this year the 9th grade representative will be elected at the 9th grade retreat…. As always, we are joined by two teachers on the committee, this year those two are Carly Pansulla and Stephanie Wright.
Before I dive into specific details about the Judicial Committee, I’d like to clarify a few things. When I was a 9th grader, I thought the Judicial Committee was some secretive society that met in a dungeon below Bliss, but that’s just not true—the dungeon is actually below the chapel. In reality, the Judicial Committee is comprised of students who take the same classes, do the same activities, and eat the same school lunches as everyone else in this room. I decided to run for Judicial Committee during my sophomore year because I wanted to get involved and help make Lakeside a better place—and I’m sure everyone else on the committee decided to run for similar reasons.
Ok, now let’s talk about the Judicial Committee’s process. Unlike other schools that have long lists of rules and punishments, at Lakeside we follow community expectations. I hope most of you are familiar with these expectations. If you aren’t, I suggest you take the time to read them on Lakeside’s website. So, if a student strays from following the community expectations, Assistant Director Betty Benson gathers facts about the incident. The student then works with Ms. Benson to write a statement of fact explaining the situation. This statement of fact is then presented to the Judicial Committee. The committee reviews the statement and comes up with questions to ask the student. The student then comes in with their advisor and meets with the Judicial Committee. The committee then works to discern, first whether this incident violated community expectations, second, whether a consequence is warranted, and third, what consequences are appropriate.
These consequences can range from meetings with trusted adults, to a few sessions of just deserts, to suspension from school. This process can be a little hard to visualize, which is why every year the committee does a mock case in front of the 9th grade class. So, the 9th graders in the room have that to look forward to.
Last year, Will Cero '19, the previous chair, talked about the new features added to the Judicial Committee. This year, I want to briefly remind you what those new aspects were. First, I’ll talk about the addition of alternates to the committee. The committee has three alternates this year: Patrick P. ’21, Roman O. ’22, and Ben McKinley. The alternates were added to the committee to ensure that every case will have the same ratio of 4 students and 2 teachers in case any regular member of the committee is unavailable to help in a particular case. The alternates also ensure that Ms. Benson never has to join the committee as a voting member.
Next, I want to talk about the training for the Judicial Committee. During the first week of school, the committee met to undergo training to help us push past our biases and preconceived notions to make fair decisions. We also learned about how to ask questions in a respectful and productive way. Last year, we also implemented a method for the committee to receive feedback from students. Six weeks after a student goes through the Judicial Committee process, they will meet with Ms. Benson and write a reflection about their experience. This is not intended as extra punishment for the student, instead the committee will meet at the end of every academic quarter to review these reflections and use them to improve upon the Judicial Committee process.
I also want to talk about transparency, confidentiality, and the infamous Judicial Committee emails that will populate your inboxes throughout the year. A particularly important part of the Judicial Committee process is figuring out how to write the emails that will be sent out to the entire school after we determine a consequence. The committee must honor the privacy of those who come before the committee, but we also understand and respect the need for the Lakeside community to know why particular actions warranted a specific consequence. This is where things get a little tricky.
We try to send an email with the most relevant information to a case without including the more minute, less important details that might reveal a student’s identity. As a 9th and 10th grader, some of the JC e-mails frustrated me and I often wanted to know more about a case. After a year on the committee, I can promise you that we do our utmost to make sure these emails contain the information needed to understand the consequence. Nothing more and nothing less. I hope that you read these emails not to speculate on who or what the incident might be about, but to learn from them.
Once these emails are sent out, your first instinct may be to come ask one of us about the case. While we may be able to clarify some things, we all understand the responsibility of the positions we were elected to and won’t reveal any information beyond what is in the email. However, if you have any overwhelming questions or additional information, I encourage you to meet with Ms. Benson. That will be much more productive than gossiping in the library.
I recognize that coming before the Judicial Committee isn’t something any of you want to do, but I hope you aren’t scared of the people on the committee and now hopefully you understand the process a little better. None of us are on the Judicial Committee because we love doling out consequences—that’s not what the Judicial Committee was created to do. The purpose of the Judicial Committee is to uphold the principles of the Lakeside community. I ran for chair of the committee to ensure that like last year, an environment of thoughtful discussion and careful deliberation allows us to balance what is best for individual students and the Lakeside community as a whole. The committee lets you tell your side of the story in front of four of your peers and two of your teachers instead of administrators who may or may not understand what it’s like to be a teenager in 2019. I hope what we do on the Judicial Committee is a little more clear to you, but if you have any questions going forward feel free to ask me or Ms. Benson.
Finally, I want to point out the best way to avoid coming in front of the Judicial Committee. Instead of worrying about what not to do, strive to follow this goal set in the community expectations: “every action that affirms consideration, integrity, and inclusion builds the ethical spirits that contribute to the kind of community we seek.” Throughout the year, let's all try to keep this in mind and act in ways that affirm consideration, integrity, and inclusion. Thank you.