Expelled? Here’s Why

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January 3, 2023

Poly Prep’s school motto “mind, body, character” is all-encompassing. It tells students to hold our mental and physical strength in regard. However, more importantly, it tells us to maintain strength of character. Only students have the ability to define the school’s character, which includes upholding academic integrity. Poly’s expulsion policy is outlined in the Student Handbook, which is sent to all students at the beginning of each year; Head of Upper School Sarah Bates recently spoke with the Polygon more in-depth about the policy.

“Our policies are intended to protect the privacy of students who make egregious errors,” Bates said. “We want students to learn from their mistakes; sometimes they can learn and remain in the community and sometimes that learn-
ing cannot be done here.” With the faith that students should learn from their actions, it is difficult to ask students to leave. However, Bates noted that depending on the seriousness of the offense, students do not always have this option.

Bates shared what goes into a recommendation to the Head of School Audrius Barzdukas, who finalizes the decision. Bates said, “the decision to ask a student to leave school is not made without significant discussion and assessment of the situation.” Bates continued: “It is after a careful review of the following question: 1. Did the student harm only themselves or the wider Poly community?” Bates noted that the repercussions of an individual offense are at a lower scale than those that hurt others in our community, thus affecting our culture more holistically.

The second question Bates considers is: “Are they able to learn from their mistakes, or is the harm so deep that we need to ask the to leave?” In addition to affecting others by wrongdoing, the intensity of the action and its impact to Poly is taken into account.

These questions pertaining to severity and those affected come into play in the final determining of the student’s punishment. Bates emphasizes that there is a key difference between being asked to leave and expulsion. She said, “‘Expulsion’ on a transcript will certainly close almost all doors to the next educational institution, either secondary school or college.”

The alternative — “a withdrawal” — is less severe. Bates said, “‘withdrawal’ reads as a voluntary act, though almost certainly requires follow-up with the next school or college.” The implications of withdrawal are less harmful because they indicate a student’s choice to leave a school, but colleges will still be likely to inquire about the nature of the student’s departure.

Bates said, “people need to be accountable for their actions, but accountability needs to be followed by a reflection of why the student made the decision they did.” Even after the punishment, which varies in levels of suspension, being asked to leave, or expulsion, there is a clear emphasis on the self-improvement of the offender. Bates said, “learning why their actions or decisions negatively affected others is work towards ensuring that they never make the same mistake twice.” In highlighting the road to improvement, Bates puts focus on the idea that students are highly encouraged to learn from mistakes.