Middle School Discipline — That Ever-Tricky Topic

Pink SlipBy Reed Gabhart, Head of Goshen Campus

Middle School discipline is far more of an art than a science and has us often living in gray areas. Most situations that emerge (or “erupt” as they occasionally do!) usually involve “sorting out” with two or more students, and it is a delicate dance to arrive at mutually agreeable versions of the circumstances. Add in the parents’ perspectives, and we are balancing multiple viewpoints and outlooks. All of this is to say, it’s a very complicated topic that we deal with regularly at St. Francis, as at all Middle Schools.  As always, our goal is to try to figure out the truth and, when appropriate, hold our students accountable while helping them learn from their mistakes.  

I thought I’d use my space this week to let you know about conversations that occurred this week in our Middle School faculty meeting on Wednesday afternoon. One of our featured discussion points was Middle School discipline, and specifically, “Pink Slips,” which are often our communication home to parents informing you of a disciplinary situation.  Pink Slips are often a source of consternation for students, parents, and teachers alike, and there still seems to be a lack of clarity as to when they are handed out and their purpose. To that end, we decided to have a conversation about their issuance in order to ensure consistency in handing them out; our plan is to also discuss this with the students.

One of the best ideas from our recent discussion, which is particularly in keeping with the Progressive philosophy that values student input on school policies, is Middle School Advisors’ plan to discuss Pink Slips with their Advisees next week to ask them what they think merits a Pink Slip. While each teacher has discretion in handing out Pink Slips, there are also things that, we believe, all would agree should automatically earn one. As such, we wanted to solicit students’ ideas and feedback on this and include their viewpoints to generate a list of certain behaviors that we all agree should earn a Pink Slip, thereby demystifying these colorful documents.  

After the discussions, we will reconvene, compare our notes, and come up with a list of behaviors from the students and faculty that should be fully understood by all. We will also share this with parents, as well.

My guess is the list won’t be very long.  Pink Slips have been a practice at St. Francis for many years, but as a Progressive School, we believe that all practices should be examined and updated on a regular basis.  This is a topic that we will continue to study and we (Shelly Jones, Alexandra, or I) welcome your input and questions.