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Chester County Press

U-CF will no longer report student discipline issues on college applications

09/17/2019 11:57AM ● By J. Chambless

By J.P. Phillips

The Unionville-Chadds Ford School District overhauled its discipline policy last year. Major changes included flexibility in meting out student punishments so reprimands better suit infractions; mandatory education and counseling for smoking, alcohol, and drug offenses; and a chance for the rescission of a single suspension from student records. Initially, rescission was deemed important because district policy stated that suspensions must be reported on college applications.

At the Sept. 16 school board meeting, directors voted to change policy 216 so that Unionville High School will no longer report any disciplinary actions on student college applications. 

This policy change only impacts how the school administration completes each student’s college application.  Students will still have to answer whether or not they have been suspended on their portion of the form.

Board members spoke both for and against this change at the three-hour Sept. 9 work session.  “Just to remind everyone, this does not in any way, shape or form change the rescission policy that we agreed to a year and a half ago,” board member John Murphy said. “I did have some concern that this would be conflicting or taking the effectiveness out of rescission, but after discussions with Dr. Sanville, I understand now that a student has to self-report disciplinary action. So if a student is suspended and has a rescission, they in clear conscience can self-report on the common app that they have not been disciplined. I personally don’t feel that a counselor should have an ethical dilemma, because to me, a rescission is the same as an expungement. But if they feel it is an ethical dilemma on their part, then I support this.”

When asked in an email why the counselors have this ethical dilemma while students with a rescinded suspension do not, the district responded that, “Some counselors feel like it goes against their ethical standards of counseling.”

Board member Elise Anderson emphasized that students will still have to answer the suspension question on their college application, and added, “I think that it’s important to recognize that in our community, many feel this is the jurisdiction of the parents. Our discipline policy, if I ask myself what the purpose of the policy is, is to have a safe environment here, and an environment suited for optimal education for all our students. And if I boil it down to that, I support this change.” 

Board president Jeff Hellrung said that the revisions to the discipline policy approved last April ensure that the student pays an appropriate price for their actions. They are still suspended, and they will receive counseling or perform other educational activities to make up for their offense.  “Accountability is important, and non-reporting doesn’t change any of that,” Hellrung said.  “They’ve been accountable, they’ve paid a penalty, they’ve learned, and they’re moving on, and we are moving on together with them. Why should high school behavior follow them to college and beyond?”

Board member Tom Day opposed the policy change during the work session. Day said that offering a chance for rescission should be enough to remedy a one-time student mistake. “Our kids are mature enough to realize that discipline comes at a cost, and we have offered them a chance for second chances vis-a-vis the rescission policy, but in the event the disciplinary action is not rescinded, I don’t see any reason why we should not report,” he said.

Day softened his position when it was time to vote during the Sept. 16 board meeting. “Over the past month, I’ve spoken to administration, I’ve spoken to school leadership, and I’ve spoken to members of the community,” Day said. “And I understand now the inconsistencies in reporting discipline across the schools in our country and our county vary, and I realize and understand and appreciate the inconsistencies in reporting between colleges that have the common application and don’t have the common application, and further understand and appreciate the inconsistencies without this policy that would occur within our own district. So with that said, I will vote in favor of this.”

The policy change passed 6-2.  Board members Bob Sage and Steve Simonson voted against it.  Carolyn Daniels was absent due to a recent surgery.

Hellrung closed the meeting by citing the board’s positive working relationship. “I really do appreciate being on this board and being able to debate very difficult and sometimes complicated and controversial questions,” he said. “And I appreciate the lengths that each board member goes to, whether you’ve been in favor, or ended up in favor, or opposed, for example, to policy 216.  I really appreciate the diligence and conscientiousness that everyone put into it. As Dr. Sanville said, the ability to disagree agreeably has been on display. I think our board has been kind of a beacon of civility in a sometimes less-than-civil world, and I’m really appreciative of that.”

In other news, Chadds Ford Elementary School Principal Shawn Dutkiewicz resigned effective Sept 30, 2019 to assume the role of the Radnor Township School District’s Elementary Director of Teaching and Learning. CFE parents were notified on Aug. 26 via an email. The board approved the hiring of Dennis McKnight as the Chadds Ford Elementary School Interim Principal at a salary of $700 per day, effective Oct 1.

“This is not our first go-around having Dr. McKnight here,” Sanville said. “Dr. McKnight has been the interim principal at the high school, the interim principal at the middle school, and he has also had some stints over in Radnor, which is where he is right now. We’re thrilled you can join us and be part of the team at Chadds Ford until we can find a permanent principal.”

Ten Top High Schools in PA, according to US News and World Report. The Chester County Press asked if they report suspensions on college applications:

1.      Masterman, Philadelphia:  YES

2.      Downingtown Stem Academy:  YES

3.      Radnor High School:  NO

4.      Central High School, Philadelphia:  YES

5.      Conestoga High School, Berwyn: NO

6.      Strath Haven High School, Wallingford: YES

7.      Unionville High School: NO, effective 2019

8.      New Hope-Solebury High School, New Hope: NO

9.      Upper St. Clair High School, Pittsburgh: NO

10.  Northwest Collegiate Academy, Erie:  NO

Local Schools:

·         Kennett High School: Did not respond +

·         Avon Grove High School: NO

·         Oxford High School:  NO, unless college requires it and parent gives written consent

+ The default is YES unless stated in school policy.  While the Chester County Press could not find it in the policy manual, we could not confirm with the school.