Parent FAQs on Rules & Discipline at Deerfield

To highlight key elements of the disciplinary process at Deerfield, here are brief responses to parents’ frequently asked questions:

What are the rules at Deerfield?

Deerfield students are expected to have a strong sense of right and wrong and use this basis to make decisions every day. The school’s rules and expectations are based on a core set of values.  While rules can’t cover every situation, they are intended “to create an environment where these core values are fostered and practiced. In addition, these rules aim to keep students safe, to ensure that all members of our community can access the full Deerfield experience, and to cultivate the judgment required for a lifetime of thoughtful decision-making.” (excerpt from the 2017-18 Handbook.)
The full list of current rules and expectations is on the website in the “Almanac” section, which is under the “Bulletin” on the left border of the homepage, or link directly to a PDF of the 2017-18 Rules Handbook (content is the same on both).  The chapters/sections are as follows:  1-Introduction; 2-Scope, Jurisdiction and Reporting; 3-Major School Rules; 4-Personal Conduct; 5-Leaving Campus; 6-Health and Safety; 7-Disciplinary Process; 8-Disciplinary Responses; and 9-Anti-Bullying and Harassment Policy.
Note that there is a “Sanctuary Policy” that allows students to help others without disciplinary repercussions in cases of alcohol or drug use.  Details of this Sanctuary Policy process are on the website

Do the rules apply only on-campus at Deerfield?

No!  Deerfield’s rules and expectations apply from a student’s first day of attendance through graduation both when school is in session, during breaks, on weekends and over the summer, both on and off-campus, online and offline.

What happens when a student breaks minor school rules/expectations?

Whenever minor rules/expectations are broken (e.g., missing sit-down meal, absence from class), Accountability Points (APs) are assigned.  APs are totaled throughout each term and there are penalties at various point levels over 12 points per term (or 17 for seniors). A listing of AP values is in chapter 7 on Disciplinary Process. When a student crosses an AP threshold, they receive a scaled sanction (e.g., additional required study halls) based on the number of APs – and their parents/guardians are notified.  Parents/Guardians may see their child’s current number of APs by logging into DAinfo and looking on their child’s page under the “Attendance” tab.

What happens when a student breaks a major school rule?

When a student is suspected of breaking a major rule (e.g., academic integrity, alcohol or drug use, hazing, view the full list), they must appear before the Disciplinary Committee (“DC”) or, in the case of academic integrity issues, the Academic Honor Committee (“AHC”). The DC hearing serves as “an educational process meant to help students understand the rules, the reasons for them, the need for consequences when those rules are broken and the opportunities for growth that can come from mistakes. The Discipline Committee is responsible for upholding the Academy’s standards.”
A DC hearing is chaired by the Dean of Students (currently Kevin Kelly) and includes the relevant Class Dean (Becca Melvoin for 9th and 10th graders, or Sam Bicknell for 11th and 12th graders), the student’s advisor,  two faculty members and three students (out of the larger pool of fifteen).  Students apply for this position at the end of their sophomore and/or junior year to serve in the following school year. The student applicants are selected by the Deans for this important leadership role. The student coming before the DC may request that one student in the DC pool not be assigned to their hearing.  In addition, the student may bring an advocate of their choosing to the meeting (e.g., trusted adult, friend).
At the DC hearing, the student presents their statement and the Committee asks questions to understand the facts. The student and advocate then leave the room while the DC first decides if a major rule has been broken and then gives their recommendations to the Dean of Students for disciplinary response – if warranted.  The Dean of Students, sometimes in consultation with the Assistant Head of School for Student life (currently Amie Creagh), makes the final decision.
For instances of hazing, bullying or harassment which are major school rule violations, impacted students typically go to the Deans and the Student Life Office for vetting and a possible hearing through the DC process noted above. If students are experiencing tension or problems with another student(s), they may choose to go to the Community Conduct Committee (CCC). The CCC is a venue for confidential mediation by trained adults.  If the CCC feels that a major school rule has been violated, they can also refer the case to Student Life.  Going to the CCC does not preclude a disciplinary response.
For instances of academic dishonesty, the teacher and department chair must agree that there has been a violation and report it to the Academic Dean (currently Ivory Hills). The Academic Dean may choose to convene the Academic Honor Committee (“AHC”) to consider the situation.  The AHC is chaired by the Academic Dean and includes the Director of Studies plus three students and two faculty members, selected from a pool AHC representatives. The hearing process mirrors the DC process, with Academic Dean making the final decision on disciplinary response.

What does it mean that we are a “two-strike” school and what are typical disciplinary responses?

Most disciplinary responses to major rule violations are designed to restore a student’s place in the school community and give them a second chance. Specific responses will vary on a case-by-case basis and a student’s behavior during the DC process – especially their accountability and honesty – are often factors in determining the response, which include (in order of escalating severity):
  • Letter of Reprimand – for minor misbehavior. May be issued by a dean.
  • Disciplinary Warning – for a major rule violation with mitigating factors or for a series of minor infractions.  May be issued by a dean alone or DC recommendation.
  • Disciplinary Probation – typically includes suspension; student may choose to meet with a probation advisor; remains on Disciplinary Probation through graduation.
    • Suspension – student forfeits participation in all facets of school life and, upon return, in-season varsity athletes may not compete in the next scheduled game.
  • Enrollment Review – for repeated and ongoing failure to meet expectations and commitment to change; Typically issued by Student Life Office and then a Review Committee (e.g., advisor, faculty, dean) monitors the student for at least two terms. Full faculty discusses the student’s progress at the end of each term and, after two terms, the Review Committee makes a recommendation for further action. A student who fails to make meaningful change will likely be dismissed.
In general, a student who receives a Disciplinary Warning, Probation or Suspension will remain in this status through graduation and, if they break a major school rule again, dismissal is likely (i.e., on the second strike). The hope is that students can learn from their mistakes and change their behavior.  However, in rare instances, the Head of School – in consultation with senior staff – may respond to significantly inappropriate behavior by immediately dismissing a student.
For students involved in disciplinary events related to use of drugs and/or alcohol, they are required to have a Drug & Alcohol Assessment. This is performed by professional counselor and follow-up meetings are required to discuss and implement recommendations.  A written report is shared with parents/guardians.  Ongoing random testing occurs for the remainder of their time at Deerfield.

What disciplinary actions are noted on a student’s record that is shared with colleges?

A student’s official transcript does not include information on disciplinary action, but their confidential, internal Deerfield record includes all disciplinary details.
However, college notification requirements do apply to students who have been placed on Disciplinary Probation and/or Suspension at any time during their high school careers. Students who have been placed on probation at any point in their time at Deerfield must “check the box” on their college application and provide a separate essay to explain their situation (and hopefully describe their growth and development as a result of their experience) to admissions officers. The College Advising Office advises students and helps them manage the process of disciplinary reporting to colleges, universities, and scholarship agencies. In some circumstances, reported disciplinary actions can result in a student’s loss of college acceptance or athletic commitment.

How/When are parents involved in the disciplinary process?

Parents/Guardians are always notified if/when their student must have a DC or AHC hearing and are encouraged to support their student throughout the process, helping to ensure they communicate clearly and learn from their mistakes. Although parents/guardians don’t attend DC or AHC meetings, students will be supported by their advisor, class dean and additional advocates, if they choose.  Support for students continues after the disciplinary response to encourage ongoing learning and continued growth.

Who are the key disciplinary contacts on campus?

In addition to your child’s advisor, each class is assigned a dean. These deans are part of the Student Life Office, and share similar responsibilities from routine issues (e.g., clearing APs) to more significant disciplinary issues.
  • Asst. Head of School for Student Life: Amie Creagh 413-774-1454
  • Dean of Students: Kevin Kelly 413-774-1457
  • Asst. Dean – 11th and 12th Grade Dean: Sam Bicknell 413-774-1485
  • Asst. Dean – 9th and 10th Grade Dean:   Becca Melvoin   413-774-1423
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