Rules and Discipline

Overview

Sea Island School has two primary rules: first, love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and second, love your neighbor as yourself  (Matthew 22:37-39).  Any other rules, procedures, and policies that are good rules should be covered by these two.  We do not steal, because that, of course, is not loving to the one from whom we stole.  We do not waste our time, because that dishonors the Lord who made us stewards of the time he has given us, and, likewise, it dishonors the parents who have invested in their children’s education at Sea Island School.   

Excessive rules create an ugly game whereby students try to work their way through loopholes, which just necessitates more rules. Pinning down student behavior is difficult. The more rules you write, the deeper the hole you dig.  This approach exasperates everyone. The school winds up focusing on outward behaviors that are usually far removed from the real issue, which is the heart or attitude of the student.

We firmly believe in spanking, but in these litigious days we will not administer corporal punishment. Should serious discipline be needed, spanking or otherwise, the burden will fall to the parents.  The main form of discipline we use for serious issues is removal from the school, for the rest of the day or maybe longer.  One of the most effective forms of discipline is simply having the student call and inform his father that he will need to be picked up later than usual because he has detention.  The father is usually given a heads-up as to the problem.  This discipline method is generally very effective; if it is not, there is a much deeper problem.
 
The following example shows the advantages of a discipline system focused on Jesus' two greatest commandments. A good friend and mentor of Sea Island School founder Stephen Wilkins originated this approach at his school.  A teenage girl in his school was quite the bully.  Among other things, she and her two followers would walk down the hall three abreast, scowling at the other students scurrying out of their way to avoid her wrath. Her actions needed to be dealt with, but what rule do you write? No scowling? No walking three abreast in the halls? But her principal was able to refer the bully, and eventually her father, to the second of Jesus' great commandments, pointing out that the girl was not loving her neighbors. Both the daughter and father were unrepentant and eventually were removed from the school.  A school that writes a hundred rules to control behavior could never deal with that issue, but this principal was able to deal with it decisively and biblically. Epilogue: the father returned months later, somberly confessing that he realized that the principal had been right about his daughter all along.

Every student has a right to a safe environment that is conducive to learning and free from bullying and classroom disruptions. No student will be allowed to intimidate other students or disrupt the classroom. But keeping in mind that we are all sinners still dealing with the “old man,” there is a place for grace. The primary goals of discipline are restitution, reconciliation, and repentance, and in the long term it will lead to either reform or removal.  The length of that term depends on two things: the attitude of the child and the seriousness of the problem.

Bad attitudes are infectious and can cause of lot of harm.  One of the most important things a school offers is the student culture, more specifically the attitude of the student body about learning in general, about the school and its expectations, and about fellow students.  Such a culture must be carefully cultivated by the faculty.  A student who has a terrible attitude toward the school will be removed much sooner than one who does not.  There are children who struggle with self-control and say and do things that are not wise, yet they can be the most loving students and can be truly repentant.  Such children would receive much grace.  The other factor, though, is the severity of the student’s offense. Hopefully nothing of the sort will happen, but one can imagine actions that would require immediate removal from the school, regardless of attitude.
 
Wherever two or more are gathered together, even in his name, there will be difficulties.  Each individual brings his sins and shortcomings to whatever institutions he is a part of: a marriage, a family, a church, the work place, the neighborhood, and even a great Christian school.  God is glorified in a perfect marriage, but John Piper points out that much more often he is “glorified in the crucible of marriage.”  A church glorifies God when its members are patient and kind, overlook offenses, and challenge one another to do well.  It would be naïve to think that you could find a church or a family or a school where patience, kindness and forgiveness would not be necessary.  But by God’s strength and wisdom, we can glorify him in the struggle to work and learn together at Sea Island School.