Why Was I Suspended? : DHS administration shares why students face repercussions for their actions


Stevi Cameron

Drug use, bullying, and violence: all means for student suspension. The 2018-2019 school year has invoked many questions of what can lead to a student suspension. While many rumors and misunderstandings will always circulate around the disciplinary process, what many students and administrators alike need is some clarity from both the students and the enforcers.

This year especially, what influences these processes and is in turn affected have fallen under the DHS microscope.

There are various infractions that a student can exhibit that would call for suspension, the most common being drug use.

“Things that would be considered a crime would be suspendable” said Assistant Principal Darren Tarshis.

Such suspendable actions consist of drug use, drug possession, violence, theft, bullying, and other student misdemeanors. Tarshis, as well as DHS Assistant Principals Brandon Thurston and Amy Swartz, are the first to address the students responsible and walk them through the disciplinary process. Each suspension revolves around its connection to school.

“The word that we use is nexus. We suspend for things that have a nexus to school or a connection to school,” said Tarshis. This includes anything on the way to school, conversations at school, during school hours, or events occuring on school property.  For example, plans that originate at school, even if they take place elsewhere, are suspendable. This includes anything taking place over social media if the offender has a relation to school.

Additionally, the role of the assistant principals is to perform a majority of the inquiry into each case.

“We do a full investigation to find out what was actually transpiring, it’s not just assumed guilt,” said Thurston.

There are many aspects that are considered carefully in each case. Every misunderstanding must be unraveled as well as people involved, events of the situation, and its severity. To elaborate, social media and bullying have always been a confusing obstacle to understand.

“If it’s a marijuana offense we can pretty much have it in and out of our office in one day, but sometimes bullying, and especially cyberbullying, can take a few weeks,” said Swartz. Because bullying is so abstract, it is harder to find concrete evidence for it, making it a longer, tougher process to deal with.

The role of each assistant principal is nominally broken up by grade so that Ms. Swartz deals primarily with 9th graders, Mr. Thurston with 10th graders, and Mr. Tarshis with those in 11th and 12th grade. Despite having separate grades, they mostly collaborate through each process.

“Sometimes the lines are a little blurred because we need to be a team. It depends on the situation,” said Swartz.

To ensure punishments are objective to it’s misdemeanor, the assistant principals emphasize the importance of their collaboration.

“We meet multiple times a year to discuss what we believe the consequence needs to be to align with our schools policies for each infraction. We do this ahead of time so that there is a level of consistency,” said Thurston. This way they can work out each point of speculation and solidify each nuanced part of the situation.

“We have that level of communication where we have already discussed the nuances of the situation of disciplinary discussions,” said Thurston. They claim that policies are pretty well set and do not normally change.

However, a thick cloud of rumours circulate the disciplinary course of action and the of the trio of assistant principals.

“We’re bound by privacy laws – and even if we weren’t bound by that, we are bound by our own ethics” said Swartz.

They can’t clarify to the students or the other parents, and the details of each case are confidential. This allows for rumours to grow as they are often spread through the school from the student in question themselves or their friends.

“We hear the rumour mill all of the time because people have different views of us and what we do” said Thurston. He shares his pride of his work after a successful encounter with the student and their parents but explains how many students don’t perceive it as a success. All they see are the effects and consequences rather than the full process.

“Our job is to work for the students best interest and you all don’t get to see that,” said Tarshis.

Their work is all behind the scenes due to confidentiality. It’s important for students to realize what they are hearing may not be true and they are expected to trust that it is administration’s best interest to maintain a positive environment. One alternative to suspensions is the DHS restorative justice program, which is a part of the counseling department. This works to decrease the amount of school missed through detailed conversations and learning to take responsibility for their actions.

Some disagree with the suspension of nonviolent cases, thinking it to be counterproductive to remove students from a learning environment. Though restorative justice has become an option, this issue has been brought to light with the increase of suspensions made from a growth in teen drug abuse.

On the other hand, students have felt that there is more to it than just the overall goal and disagree with the way their case was handled.

Suspended students provided information on their suspensions on their own accord; this information was not given by administrators. So. Baxter Moore felt that his case could have been handled better and felt that the bigger picture could have been analyzed before deciding on a definite punishment, leading to one he felt was slightly exaggerated.

“I understand that precautionary measures need to be taken because it was a threat, but I would say they made a very rash decision,” said Moore.

So. Clara Krull was suspended her freshman year for a drug paraphernalia related case and expresses that she did not think investigations that went into it were thorough enough, believing the punishment was inaccurate for the infraction done.

“I felt that it was unfair because they didn’t have any proof,” said Krull. After all was said and done, she felt that they hadn’t gone deep enough into investigations and hadn’t made the right decision for the disciplinary actions.

Moore explained that he felt there were a few other things that could have be done better throughout the disciplinary process.

“They should have considered it on a case by case basis instead of generalizing it,” said Moore.

Moore explains that he believes administration left out most of the surrounding circumstances because they didn’t talk to the people involved before making assumptions, in addition to considering the events around school that would be affected due to his absence.

“I just wish they had told me what was going on. I didn’t really have any information through the whole process,” said Krull.

She explained that throughout the process she was in the dark the whole time; there was a lack of information on the process of the disciplinary actions.

”It was just super chaotic for me,” said Krull.

Moore mentioned a similar issue in communication from administration as well. Both students agreed that it was something that could be improved upon and make the situation better for both sides.

There may be many answers to solving the issues brought on through suspension policies and the role of the administration, however, it is clear that a consensus must be agreed upon. Hopefully, the system will continue to improve through increasing communication and understanding between both administrator and student in question.