The structure of our school is based on democracy, not academic activity. Students at the school are free to do anything they find interesting as long as the activities do not infringe on the rights of others or endanger the school. Students and staff have an equal vote in all matters, from purchasing art supplies to the annual staff elections. School rules apply to all, and are upheld by a joint student/staff judicial committee.
All rules are written and enforced democratically, giving students a sense of ownership over the rules and the school itself. At our school all of the School Meeting Members have an equal voice in making and enforcing the rules. There are rules regarding behavior at school and the functioning of the school, rules about using certain items at the school (e.g., computers and art equipment), corporations formed to regulate usage of specialized school property and to make things happen (an art corp., computer corp., cooking corp., or science corp.) and a judicial system in place to take care of rule infractions. With this structure in place, students have the respect and freedom that they need to carry out whatever activities they see as beneficial to their lives at any given time.
Rules are composed into a school lawbook, voted on and approved by the School Meeting where each student and staff member has one vote. There is also a Judicial Committee, composed of students and staff members, to investigate and take action on complaints brought before them by members of the community. If a student or staff member is written up for violating a school rule, the the Judicial Committee gathers facts by talking with the defendant, plaintiff, and any witnesses. If it is determined that a rule was broken, the student or staff member is responsible for fulfilling the sentence determined by the Judicial Committee. Participation in the Judicial Committeee meetings is mandatory to ensure that all members of the community receive fair hearings.
Parent and Community Involvement
Certain major decisions are the province of the Assembly, made up of all students, staff, parents, and elected members of the larger community. Assembly meets three times a year to discuss and vote on matters such as the annual budget, election of Assembly officers and Trustees, and candidates for graduation.
When students decide they are ready, they apply for graduation. This requires writing a thesis on the statement I have taken responsibility to prepare myself to be a responsible adult in the community at large. A Thesis Committee assists students with this process. At a special Assembly meeting, each prospective graduate defends his or her thesis by answering questions posed by the Assembly members present. Then, each student's graduation is voted on by the attending Assembly Members in a private ballot. Students who successfully complete the graduation process are eligible to receive a diploma from Diablo Valley School.