Board of Magistrates Lacks Power and Conviction

The role of Hackley’s Board of Magistrates has been very limited in previous years; however, Hackley would greatly benefit if the Board’s responsibilities were broadened. The Board of Magistrates should not only be more involved in most serious disciplinary matters, but it should also have an influence in Hackley’s revision of policy.

According to the Hackley Handbook, “Disciplinary matters are handled by the Headmaster, who may, in his sole judgment, act with the consultation of the Upper School Director, Class Deans, and in appropriate cases, the Board of Magistrates.”

The Board of Magistrates is composed of three senior voting student members and one junior student clerk, elected by the Upper School Community. A few teachers are also represented on the board.

The Board’s original purpose states that, “Any non-expulsionary case, as determined by the Headmaster, may be referred to the Board.” Although there have been very few non-expulsionary cases in the past couple of years, a small number of disciplinary cases have been brought before the Board. This is partially because there is currently very little publicity that a student in serious trouble has the opportunity to call upon the Board.

The Board of Magistrates should have more of a voice in both discipline procedures and policy, including the establishment of effective consequences. Since the Hackley Handbook solely says that the board can “recommend consequences” in appropriate disciplinary cases, the Board should have a much broader influence in punitive maters.  Disciplinary decisions should be frequently made by the board in order to ensure effective and appropriate consequences. Often in the past, Hackley deans have created consequences that were either too harsh or not harsh enough. Many teachers have created punishments that are not effective in preventing students from repeating their original misdemeanors.

If the Board could frequently meet to revise policy and determine punishment, reasonable repercussions would occur. By having the ability to revise policy, the Board would be able to make punishments, such as Academic Detention (AD), more effective. Allowing the Board of Magistrates to have more of an influence in disciplinary actions would help Hackley implement punishments that would prevent repeated infractions. A more active Board would be effective because students on the board are capable of relating to the student in trouble. For example, a board member may have experienced his own form of punishment that he believed was ineffective. Consequently, the Board of Magistrates could collaborate with the deans and Headmaster to create consequences that could prevent the student from repeating offenses. Many students receive multiple ADs throughout the year. Many of the same students, who are repeat offenders, do not mind this detention because they can get a significant amount of homework done before going home. Because students feel as though this detention is not a harsh punishment, they find themselves in academic detention a lot. To rectify this problem, the Board of Magistrates could discuss and put into place a more effective consequence.

Each punishment could be presented in a meeting, with the approval of the board. The Board could directly represent the student body, and speak with classmates in person, whereas the headmaster likely would not. On the opposite side, the Board could decide that a punishment is not harsh enough; they may know the student as a repeat offender, who will gain nothing from a simple disciplinary or academic detention. If the board was given the opportunity to have a significant impact, they could have more of an influence in fixing smaller reoccurring issues. They could help reach a compromise on polarizing issues like dress code; many teachers feel differently about appropriate dress, and the students could have a representative on the board to explain exactly why they were out of dress code, if they even knew that they were in offence. In short, the Board of Magistrates would be more effective if they were involved in more punitive matters in order to ensure a fair agreement is reached, one that could benefit both the students and the school.