Mira Costa High School’s disciplinary policy needs specification and clarification on matters of detention. The current policy, outlined in the 2011-12 Mira Costa High School Discipline Matrix, suffers from a lack of distinct appellate guidelines.
According to Principal Ben Dale, teachers themselves do not act with the authority of the discipline matrix. A detention is only a “referral” to an administrator, and it is ultimately the administrator who is responsible for giving the detention.
Both Dale and Vice Principal Jaime Mancilla said that teachers are given ample discretion when it comes to assigning detentions. Mancilla added that teachers cannot exceed the severity of punishments stated in the discipline matrix.
Dale went on to say that he is unconcerned with fixing small matters of unjust punishment unless he sees a direct correlation with academic success at the school.
Although difficult to quantify, academic success, if not tied in directly with disciplinary policy, is affected by student-teacher relationships. A 1997 study by the Journal of Educational Psychology shows a direct relationship between academic success and student-teacher interaction; students responded positively to clear, well-established expectations for behavior.
When a student feels that a teacher has punished him or her unfairly, the trust between the student and his or her educator is clearly impacted negatively. As the study reaffirms, a lack of comfort and trust between students and teachers has the potential to harm academic performance.
Under the current discipline matrix, guidelines for detention criteria are broad. While it is reasonable that teachers be granted authority to run their classrooms how they see fit, students should have a codified method of appealing potentially unfair detention issuances.
The discipline matrix does not give specific guidelines for students to follow if they believe a detention is unjust, but Mancilla said students can appeal detentions to administrators if they wish. However, Dale said the administration will stand by teachers in most if not all situations.
Mancilla said he would be open to any discussion involving a student-teacher conflict regarding the issue of a detention, but a uniform process should be established on campus. In this process, a board of either administrators or specially-designated staff members would hear the perspective of the teacher, the student and other witnesses of the issue before making a final decision on what disciplinary action should be taken.
The system of discipline at Mira Costa seems to work well, but there are areas that require improvement. If the administration established and enforced a standard process for appeals between students, teachers and administrators, the discipline matrix for Mira Costa would be clearer and with that more effective.