The mission of Penn Charter states that we “develop students to act in a moral, civil and responsible manner.” A central belief of Friends schools is that each person strives to see the Light of God in themselves and in everyone else. Implied in this belief is the notion that, along with continually seeing the goodness in others, we each strive to bring our most engaged, most responsible, most compassionate self to school every day. Much of the structure of Penn Charter is based on this idea: that each person actively chooses to behave simultaneously in the best light for themselves and the community. When we join with Penn Charter, we mutually agree that we are a learning community that is based on this agreed-upon trust.
While we recognize that learning to behave in the above manner is a lifelong endeavor, the Lower School program is designed to provide our students with the necessary structure and support to thrive as members of our Lower School community. We expect our students to exemplify courtesy, show respect and concern for others, act in a safe manner, and display respect for property.
When routine conflicts arise, we would like the first attempt at reaching an agreed-upon resolution to be accomplished by the students directly involved. Such attempts are usually monitored first by our classroom teachers, with possible support from Lisa Reedich, the counselor or "feelings teacher" for the Lower School. The approach used is guided by our social curriculum, the Responsive Classroom, in combination with the Friends manner of finding peaceful solutions to conflict. Students are often encouraged to sit at a “peace table,” use “I” statements in the discussion of the conflict, and follow the “Ice Cream Cone” steps in order to reach agreement on a mutually beneficial resolution. This curriculum is based on logical rules and consequences; following this approach, appropriate action is taken to solve each problem as it arises. We want students to learn from their mistakes and from the particular resolutions to actual conflicts. We believe the best outcome in any disciplinary action is to support students in taking responsibility for their actions, to develop empathy for others, and to teach alternative ways to solve the problems that motivated the questionable behavior. A key component to this approach is that we expect to see a decrease in conflictive behavior over time for each of our students. More serious or recurring incidents are infrequent, but when they occur they are addressed by the classroom teacher along with the Lower School administrative team: Assistant Director Charlie Kaesshaefer, Director of Pre-K Joan Rosen and Director Kate McCallum.
In Lower School, most first-time discipline problems, even those of a more serious nature, are usually viewed as mistakes in judgment that can be corrected with proper consequences. Students own the mistakes they have made, perform actions that heal relationships with those directly affected, restore themselves within the community, and as quickly as possible return to positive engagement with school. However, if similar problems persist and are not reaching proper resolution, then the school may take more serious action. Such action may include being held out from class, being suspended from school for part of a school day or up to several days, and, in the most egregious cases, being asked to leave the school permanently.
While each discipline problem is unique, here is a listing of behaviors which, when persisting over time, are viewed as more serious in nature:
- Misrepresenting the truth on a more continuous basis. In the case of many discipline procedures, lying about one’s involvement in the initial problem may be seen as more problematic than the original situation.
- Any physical violence or verbal violence (bullying and/or threatening) directed at others. Conflicts and disagreements should never be handled by aggressively placing one’s hands on another person and/or threatening them verbally in anger.
- Harassment or “bullying” behavior. This includes, but is not limited to, “bullying” over the Internet and/or through electronic media. Harassment or “bullying” is any recurring action that is targeted at a specific student or group of students in order to exclude them from any part of school life, belittle them within the classroom or grade community, or evoke fear of physical harm and/or emotional distress. Such behavior cannot occur in any area of school, including before and after-school programs, on the playgrounds, and during bus transit.
- Theft of school and/or personal property. Destruction of school and/or personal property.
- Inappropriate behavior while representing Penn Charter in public and/or on public and private buses.
- Plagiarism, misrepresenting other’s work as one’s own. This usually becomes more of a concern as our students reach fourth and fifth grades.