Honor court looks to give students voice

Kirsten Buchanan

Creating discussion: Seniors Rick Flinn and Syed Ejaz discuss plans for an honor court. The court would aim to give students a voice in administrative decisions in areas like punishment. Photo by Muhammad Al-Rawi.

Instead of having administrators hand down punishments alone, seniors Syed Ejaz and Rick Flinn spent six months researching ways for students to have a say in disciplinary actions.

With the help of the debate team, Flinn and Ejaz plan to pitch the idea of a student-run judicial system, called an honor court, to administrators sometime in the future, although they have not set a specific date. Their vision is to have a group of student judges preside over student disciplinary cases. This panel would assist in giving punishments, except in extreme or sensitive cases.

“Basically the whole purpose of this is to both provide students with education about the whole legal system … and eventually give them experience to people who want to go into professions such as law or perhaps being a judge or similar law authorities,” Flinn said. “Basically we’re just going to ask administrators to listen to the majority decision in every case that the [student] judges decide.”

One major step in setting up an honor court at RBHS is having administrators on board, Flinn said. Many high schools across the country have student Supreme Court systems; administrator Tim Wright enjoyed a similar policy at a former school.

“Typically you don’t see [student court systems] in a public high school but I’ve also been involved in a situation where I was teaching in a private school … and we had a student review board kind of. It sounds like this honor court,” Wright said. “If there was a case of expulsion, there was a panel made up of the dean of students, assistant principal, a student representative that was elected by the student body and then a faculty representative … and basically those individuals would hear the circumstances behind the code of conduct violation and make a recommendation [for punishment].”

However, because of privacy restrictions, Wright believes an honor court is more suited for a private school. He said the law prevents administrators from talking about specific punishments of one student with another, so the honor court would have to focus on generalities instead.

Another difficulty Ejaz and Flinn anticipate is the process in which judges will be appointed. Flinn said he wants to see an application process similar to a college application where a student must prove to be an objective judge.

“We’re probably not just going to leave it up to a popularity contest because obviously there is a potential for people [to be elected] because they’re popular and then let their friends off. That’s exactly what we don’t want to see,” Flinn said. “For now we don’t know essentially how the election process is going to work or who’s going to have input on it. We do however know that the administration is going to have a huge part in selecting these people and that they will have to prove their objectivity.”
By Kirsten Buchanan