– Heidi Walsh
The Medford School Committee met in a committee of the whole before April vacation to discuss the issue of social probation.
Superintendent Roy Belson opened the meeting saying, “In order to ensure safety amongst our students it is important that they recognize the rules of the student handbook given to them on the first day of school and follow its rules.”
Medford High School Headmaster Dr. Paul Krueger followed up on Supt. Belson’s remarks, providing School Committee members not only with a description of social probation, but also with a presentation on the reasons why social probation is an effective disciplinary tool. Social probation, according to the MHS student handbook, can include ineligibility for participation in school activities outside of the normal school day.
“It’s non-negotiable as far as I’m concerned,” said Dr. Krueger. “We need to be teaching our children that actions have consequences especially where bullying, alcohol, and class cutting are concerned.”
In the past social probation has been a disciplinary tool used at the high school to punish those who have exhibited various forms of misbehavior, including drinking at prom. Dr. Krueger made an effort to explain how social probation is beneficial despite the ultimate punishment of not walking during graduation.
“I have no interest in being another South Hadley,” said Dr. Krueger. “We’ve had bullying in the past and the problems have always stopped when I reminded them that if that kind of behavior continues they can kiss their prom and athletic season goodbye.”
There seemed to be a general agreement amongst the school board members concerning the actions that could result in social probation. However, questions were raised by School Committee member George Scarpelli, who pointed out that not every situation is black and white.
“Are we going to prevent a young lady from attending a concert that may get her into Berkley because of a mistake that may now cost her future?” he said.
Mr. Scarpelli also asked Dr. Krueger for a list of student violations that resulted in social probation so the School Committee could have an idea as to how effective the punishment has been and to see how it has been applied.
Following the discussion parents, teachers, and current and former administrators such as Athletic Director Robert Maloney voiced their concerns about social probation. Mr. Maloney questioned the fairness of using social probation to punish student athletes because the MIAA already has a system in place to punish athletes that violate the rules, such as missing games and practices. Mr. Maloney said he did not want student athletes being subjected to “double jeopardy” or being punished twice for the same violation.
Another issue raised by a parent was a question of whether some punishments may be too harsh, for example, a student missing graduation due to a lost school textbook.