Inquiry or Accusation: Recent administrative approach to Urban’s party culture


By Catherine Silvestri, Editor-in Chief, Magazine.

Lily Daniel , EIC, Caboose

When Heidi* was called into an Urban School faculty member’s office last September, she thought what had been a night of harmless fun was about to have a consequence. She had held a party over the summer and was asked to meet with a dean after rumors had been circulating regarding the health of another student who had attended. Heidi is one of a few Urban students who have been approached about holding parties and although she didn’t get in trouble for her actions, she expressed her surprise with Urban’s involvement.

Recently, Urban students have expressed irritation with faculty involvement in students’ social lives. 11/12th Grade Dean Dawn Jefferson explained that as an administration and faculty, “We are engaged and feel accountable for things that have to do with the culture of our school.” Jefferson expressed that the school generally has relatively non-intrusive practices around students’ social lives. Only in the event that something is shared with the faculty or administration or the “repercussions affect the academic experience of the students,” does the school become involved. Jefferson also added that this is usually in the case of “extreme moments of substance abuse, events of sexual abuse or physical abuse where that person didn’t feel safe.”

The Urban School student handbook sets guidelines for parents and children, and according to Riley Maddox, the Urban School’s 9th/10th Grade Dean, they mostly relate to a “partnership between students, families and Urban.” The handbook reminds parents of the illegality of underage drinking or drug use in their household, which can make adults civilly and criminally liable.

Charlotte Worsley, Urban’s Assistant Head for Student Life, echoed that, “Education is the most effective tool to good decision-making for our students.” This approach exemplifies the culture of the Urban School as Urban generally tries to educate its students on good decision making, before bad decisions can even be made.

Urban checks in with students and families on a fairly regular basis. If the faculty hears of a party or illegal activity happening at a student’s home, they will often have a conversation with the student and explain what they heard. If the issue involves the student’s parents, according to Worsley, she will call the parents to discuss their family values and compare them to the values of the Urban School and wider community.

While student’s social lives clearly don’t revolve solely around partying and illegal activities, last year’s HIPE survey reported that 69% of students do participate in party culture at some varying level.

Urban students and teachers may not completely agree in their approaches to disciplining teen partying but it’s clear Urban’s jurisdiction over students rarely extends beyond Urban’s walls. “We don’t work on Saturday nights,” said Worsley. The recent conversations are reminders of the community’s values and an attempt to instill what Worsley stated as the school practices:  “I wouldn’t even call them policies, they’re realities.”