Category Student/Enrollment Issues
Title Practicing Redemptive Discipline, Parts 1–3
Author/s Burt Carney
Preview An article that disucusses the ways discipline can be a redemtive ministry opportunity instead of invoking zero-tolerance polcies which may drive students away.


The Best of "Legal/Legislative Update"
© 2005

Practicing Redemptive Discipline
by Burt Carney, ACSI Director, Legal/Legislative Issues

Part I: Do Pregnant Students See the Grace of God in Action at Your School?

The Problem Several years ago a radio program from Focus on the Family caught my attention. Dr. Dobson was discussing with a panel of college administrators the topic of teen pregnancy. The discussion turned to students getting abortions so they could remain in Christian colleges. I was stunned at the thought-that students felt so pressured to keep up appearances and to remain in school that they would commit a second sin (murder) to cover up their first sin (sex outside of marriage). I have pondered that program ever since and wondered about its relevance to students on a Christian high school campus.

Many commentators agree that there have been dramatic changes over the past 15 to 20 years regarding the moral issues within the teen culture. Soaring divorce rates of parents (including Christian parents), absentee parents (especially fathers), the effects of the feminist movement, the aggressive secularization of schools and society, the widespread availability of entertainment media from sensual movies to Internet pornography, suggestive music lyrics, as well as additional factors have all contributed to the moral decline. In 1997 the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University reported results from its surveys, showing that 38 percent of 15-year-old girls and 45 percent of 15-year-old boys had engaged in sexual intercourse. 1 Another study, reported in the American School Board Journal, indicated that by age 18, 56 percent of the girls and 73 percent of the boys have become sexually active. 2

Here are comments made by two Christian school administrators answering a morality survey conducted by a Christian school in Arkansas:

Anyone who works with teens knows the incidence of sexual activity is very high. As school administrators we certainly become aware of probably no more than a small percentage of those who are sexually active-if that many. Confidential surveys reveal that easily 50 percent of the students graduating from Christian schools are sexually active. With this in mind, to throw the book at the 10 percent who are found out hardly seems productive. Treating a girl who gets pregnant differently from her boyfriend or a girl who has sex and doesn't get pregnant is indefensible, but we all do it. The double standard affecting boys and girls is still alive and well. Anyone who says they've eliminated the problem-no matter what the policy-is living with their head in the sand.

If a girl is able to keep it quiet and miscarries or has an abortion, she has "gotten away with it." The girl who knows she has sinned by having sex before marriage, but refuses to kill her baby is the one who is likely to be punished.

Several years ago I requested information from member schools regarding their student moral and pregnancy policies. My thanks to the many schools that responded. Virtually all ACSI member schools have policies with strong prohibitions regarding inappropriate sexual activity. However, I believe that most schools probably have sexually active students whose behavior their administration knows nothing about. If a student is reported to be sexually active or is reported to be pregnant, the typical school checks into the matter, invokes its zero-tolerance policy, and removes the student from the school.

I'm suggesting that schools consider taking a different approach-a more redemptive approach-in dealing with such students, if conditions warrant. Where better to learn Christian role modeling than in the midst of a crisis where students can see the grace of God in action? As one administrator from Colorado put it,

We found [that the automatic dismissal policy] kept students from seeking help from staff when they were involved in sin and wanted to break that behavior. They knew they would face suspension if we knew they were involved sexually (or with other immoral behaviors). We were losing a big ministry opportunity to restore students. In the desire to maintain biblical standards of morality and be open to work with the repentant students, we changed our policy. [Our] new policy allows us strict authority to remove the unrepentant student immediately and much flexibility to work with a student working towards restoration.

Zero Tolerance or Redemptive Discipline?

Most of the sample policies that schools sent regarding student pregnancy had a zero tolerance approach. If students get into sexual trouble, expel them. This is a simple policy that is easy to administer. So why consider another approach that is more difficult, more time consuming, and can more easily generate public relations difficulties for the school, particularly within the Christian community? Simply this—you want to minister to youth during a difficult time in their lives, not discard them so that they may never again darken the doors 3 of a church, or worse, never repent and experience forgiveness and restoration. If you can stand by a repentant student during his or her hour of trouble, a lifetime of commitment to Christ may have been gained.

So what does a redemptive policy look like, whether dealing with student drug issues, pregnancy, or other problems? What factors need to be considered? All the letters that I received supporting a redemptive policy approach started by saying that this must be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. If the student does not appear to be truly repentant, it would be better for the student to be educated elsewhere. A redemptive policy will only work with students who are willing to face their problems and admit their faults. Likewise, their parents must be supportive and be willing to work with the school during the restorative process. If the attitudes of the student or the parents are not right, don't attempt to go through all that is required under a redemptive policy.

An Indiana administrator wrote:

We handle problems on a case-by-case basis guided by established policy. We have the latitude to tailor probation to the unique needs of the school and individual students. A repentant heart is the main circumstance necessary for us to be willing to provide an option to expulsion. It is impossible to regulate that! We do provide counseling, recommend outside counseling, get parents and churches involved.... Our goal here at [the school] is for our students to become disciples of Jesus Christ. Problems often offer the best opportunities for growth with this goal in mind.... I tell our students regularly that short of selling drugs on our campus or carrying a weapon to school, if they make a mistake (sin), there will be consequences, but our goal is to help them if they have a desire to be helped. The heart is the key!

Will the school be criticized if it adopts a restorative policy? It might be. I had letters from administrators who implemented such policies and were divided on the issue. Some had experienced difficulties. How well the policy is written, administered, and communicated to all constituents may be the key to why the restorative policy may be criticized in one school but not in another.

A New York administrator wrote the following:

When immorality has occurred, our response has varied. Some kids have been expelled immediately. In other cases the students remained in school but went through suspensions, counseling, probations, and disciplines over a length of time, etc. Family situations and attitudes are always key factors. Also weighing heavily are the track records, attitudes, and circumstances of those involved. Most recently we went through this with a guy and girl when he was in grade 10 and she in grade 9. Both families were intact, Christian, and strong supporters of the school and Christian education. Working through a redemptive discipline, including 4 counseling for students and parents, success was achieved as both students have since graduated, are enrolled in Christian colleges, and are walking with the Lord today. We have our critics as a result of this flexible approach, but I believe in trying to be redemptive when at all possible. Choices bring consequences, for sure, but balancing justice with mercy is a tightrope, effort and risk not withstanding, worth walking.

Writing Your Own Student Redemptive Discipline Policy

What are some of the issues that must be addressed in a student redemptive discipline policy? This section will address various important components that should be considered. Such a policy or components of the policy can be used not only for students experiencing sexual immorality issues, but also for students in trouble for drug experimentation or other major discipline issues. By considering all these components, your school can craft a workable policy that meets the legitimate needs of your school as well as the spiritual needs of your students.

As you consider the components listed below, it will be necessary to determine which of the items need to be part of a written school policy and which items are more procedural in nature. Policies usually cover the major issues but leave a lot of the procedural issues to the administrative staff. Here are some of the issues that your school will need answers for when it faces major student problems: attitudes of the family and student; arrangement for counseling; discipleship training for the student; arrangements for continued education; guidelines for student interaction with the baby; graduation participation decisions; and what should be communicated regarding this student discipline problem.

A. Rationale for the Policy. Sometimes it is helpful to have a preamble that provides an introduction to an actual policy. In the examples below, you can see how two schools introduced their student pregnancy policies: [Christian High School] is a school that has a discipleship program for Christian students who want the encouragement, teaching, and fellowship that will enable them to see clearly and live consistently a God-honoring lifestyle.

[Christian High School] is a light to the community and not only its policies but also its people must bear witness to Christ. We want to teach all of God's nature—holiness and purity along with love and forgiveness and restoration. We also want to teach personal responsibility. We do not condone sexual immorality, and we believe abortion to be against God's law. Pregnancy itself is God's gift, and we want to be clear in our dealing with it that we not confuse the act of immorality with the value of the child.

Jesus abhorred the sin but loved the sinner (John 8:1-11). We must do the same. Certain privileges may necessarily be denied, but pregnancy in 5 and of itself will not automatically exclude a student from completing his or her course work at [Christian High School]. The policy governs both male and female students.

From a school in Washington State

Recognizing that it is the responsibility of both parents and the Christian school to educate students about the biblical principle of sexual purity before marriage, and that pregnancy in and of itself is not sin but can be the result of sin, it is the policy of this school to intervene when a student becomes pregnant.

The purpose of the intervention, rather than being punitive, is intended to be restorative in nature. Intervention is intended to encourage and foster an atmosphere of compassion and support in which a pregnant student will feel strengthened in her decision to preserve her pregnancy and not feel compelled to seek an abortion....

All aspects of this intervention will be applied equally to both male and female students of this school who are involved in a pregnancy.

From a school in Tennessee

At some point in this process your school will need to determine what policies and in what degree of detail the policies will be communicated to parents and students. Schools frequently have fairly well-articulated policies and procedures that have been approved by their boards. They are usually compiled in a notebook that is available at board meetings for reference purposes. A summary of those policies and some of the procedures may be appropriate to communicate to school families or prospective families through a Parent/Student Handbook.

B. Attitudes of the Family. Earlier in this article, administrators clearly articulated that a redemptive discipline policy shouldn't even be attempted unless the behavior and attitudes of both the parents and the student are cooperative. Has the family been generally or strongly supportive of the school, its policies, the administration and staff? Administrators should be especially cautious if such support and cooperation hasn't already been demonstrated by the family prior to the moral issue arising.

How about the student? What kind of behavior track record does he or she have in the school and community? When confronted with the immoral situation, does the student acknowledge the problem or become sullen and defensive? Does the student indicate repentance regarding the behavior under discussion? Is the student willing to stop the immoral behavior and become accountable to others?

It should be made clear to the parents and student that from the outset this redemptive process will be conducted on a week-by-week basis (this is key and 6 requires some means of measuring)—that continued enrollment in the school is dependent upon the continued cooperation of and support by the parents and student during this discipline process. If those key attitudes falter anywhere along the line in subsequent weeks, the student will be asked to withdraw.

Note: If it does not appear that a student or his/her family will qualify for the redemptive discipline process, it is wise for the school to allow the family to withdraw the student instead of the school expelling the student. The parents can be told that if a withdrawal occurs, the reason for the withdrawal would not be mentioned in the permanent records. When uncooperative parents understand the parameters of the withdrawal offer, they usually accept it. Such an offer can help the school avoid a potential frivolous lawsuit.

C. Arrangement for Outside Counseling. One condition for continued enrollment should be the insistence that the student meet on a regular basis with his or her pastor and/or a professional Christian counselor for a period of time. Require the parents to provide the counselor with a written request and permission that periodic reports regarding the progress of the counseling be forwarded to the school. If pregnancy is involved, discussion needs to occur regarding whether adoption is a good option for the child since the student is neither mature enough for parenthood nor has the intact family that is necessary for good child development. However, adoption should not be a requirement of the redemptive discipline program.

D. Student Accountability. Schools that have redemptive policies usually involve the student in weekly meetings with a designated staff member. The student is assigned to journal on a daily basis about what Scripture passages are being read, what prayer emphasis is being experienced, and what he or she is learning from this disciplinary experience. These weekly meetings can be scheduled with a school counselor, an administrator, or a favorite teacher who is appropriately mature in age and Christian commitment. This component must be successful if the student will spiritually survive this experience and remain in the school. Along these same lines, the student should be required to attend church and youth group on a weekly basis. There must be some means whereby the church reports back to the school the student's church involvement and attitudes.

E. Arrangements for Continued Education. If a family and student are candidates for the redemptive discipline process, a decision must be made on the status of the student. Schools that responded to the ACSI survey about their use of the redemptive approach usually put the student on suspension and arrange for the student to be homeschooled. Usually a member of the faculty is appointed to act as liaison between the student and the rest of the faculty. Please consider paying this person by the hour for the extra work that is involved in the assignment. Parents could be billed for the extra expenses for their child to remain in school, in addition to the monthly tuition billing. All 7 financial arrangements should be agreed to before starting the redemptive discipline process. The extra faculty expense could be estimated or limited to a certain number of hours per week so the family will have some idea of its additional financial obligation.

Typically a pregnant girl stays home for a minimum of the next full semester or until the birth of the child, whichever is longer. The probationary period usually remains through the conclusion of that school year. If the father of the child is also a student, a decision must be made on what the appropriate length of time will be for him to stay out of school. Should it be commensurate in length with the pregnant student? There was not a consensus on this point among survey schools. If a boy or girl has been sexually active but no pregnancy has resulted, the student can be suspended for an appropriate period of time and then be required to follow the components of the discipline contract.

While a large majority of schools using the redemptive discipline approach counsel against allowing a pregnant girl to remain in school during the pregnancy, a few schools took a different view.

Is keeping a repentant pregnant girl home really the message of forgiveness that we want to give? It may be practical for her to stay home for physical reasons, but if we truly forgive her and restore her, why are there additional conditions? If we are a ministry of the church and the church would allow her to attend church functions, why not us? Does this mean that she cannot attend youth group? Her presence in the hall is a life lesson on the consequences of sin and testimony of the church loving their own in repentance and restoration. Are we more concerned about those who would condemn us for loving a sister in Christ, or about loving as Christ told us to love?

From an administrator in Maryland

As part of the student's continuing education and discipline, the school might want to consider requiring a certain number of hours of community service. Several schools required 40 hours of community service. The type of service must be acceptable to the school. Parents are usually asked for some input about the type of service and how it will be monitored.

F. Student Leadership and Activities Forfeited. Schools should consider to what extent student offenders must forfeit any student leadership positions and student activity participation. A strong majority of redemptive policies ended these privileges for the remainder of that school year.

G. Guidelines for Interaction with the Baby. Only a few of the sample policies that were received from Christian schools dealt with how the student's pregnancy is communicated at school. This is an important issue since no 8 school wants to popularize teenage pregnancy. What should be addressed by schools that follow a redemptive policy?

The following are quotes from sample policies sent to ACSI:

Readmission may be considered after the baby is born, but further conditions will also be imposed in order to make sure that having a child out of wedlock is not presented to our student body in a positive light. No celebration of any kind (such as a shower) will be sponsored by the school, and the mother will not be permitted to bring her baby to school or to school events.

From a school in Virginia After the birth of the child and while either of the parents is a student, the mother and/or the father must agree to the following stipulations:

a. The baby will not be brought onto the school campus during school hours.
b. The baby will not be brought to school-sponsored activities (i.e., concerts, athletic events, general meetings, etc.).

From a school in New Jersey

The following sample policy from a secular prep school in Ohio was forwarded to ACSI by a member school. It seems to be more comprehensive than the sample policies above. Again, some of the issues presented may represent procedural issues more than policy issues.

To avoid giving the appearance of countenancing student parenthood, the school will make no official public announcement regarding the birth or impending birth of a child to a student parent and prohibits such announcement from being made at the school by others. The school specifically:

a. Prohibits the student or his or her family members or the student's classmates acting on the student's behalf from distributing written announcements or from making public oral announcements of the impending birth, while on the school's property;

b. Prohibits the public bestowing of gifts or the publicizing or conducting of showers or other events designed to celebrate the birth, while on the school's property;

c. Prohibits the student parent or the student's family members or friends or classmates from bringing the child onto school property as long as the student is enrolled at the school.

H. Graduation Participation Decisions. The majority of the sample redemptive discipline policies that ACSI received did not allow a student who had become pregnant or who had fathered a child to participate in graduation 9 exercises. Several made that distinction on whether or not the mother was still pregnant at the time of the graduation ceremonies. Whatever your school decides is appropriate, it should be communicated as part of your policy or at least during discussions with the family early in the redemptive discipline process so it won't become a last-minute issue. Obviously all students should receive a diploma, whether publicly conveyed or not, if they have completed all the course work, fulfilled all other graduation requirements, and all financial commitments have been met by the family.

Here's how a Pennsylvania school administrator handles the graduation issue:

If it is during the senior year, we provide a diploma from our school, presented to the student in a private ceremony in my office with various teachers attending. These have been rather meaningful and impressive times of personal support to students and families who have found themselves in difficult situations.

I. Communication Regarding This Discipline Incident. When you first deal with this discipline incident, you will have to decide to what extent this is a public issue. If the situation has been relatively low-key, no communication with the rest of the parents and students may be necessary. However, in higher profile situations, some type of communication may be necessary to lessen the possible occurrence of rumors and unfair allegations of school favoritism or other such accusations. (See end of article for sample letter information.)

If the administration believes that communication is necessary to all students at the school and/or their parents, the content of that communication should be carefully prepared in advance and, if possible, reviewed by an attorney before communication is made, whether orally to students or in writing to parents. This review could cost a few dollars in attorney fees, but taking this extra step could save the school from potential litigation if the family undergoing the discipline process later becomes unhappy with the school or the discipline process and withdraws their child. They could try to sue the school later, alleging such things as defamation of character or invasion of privacy. Board members, school administration, and school staff should always be careful about what they communicate regarding any student's discipline in the school. In most cases, the less that is said, the better.

What does the school put in the student's records regarding discipline issues? In a nutshell-not much. Parents get really nervous about what kind of disciplinary information is placed in a student's permanent file. They are afraid that their child will be -branded‖ or perhaps lose out on certain opportunities if such disciplinary information is in the cumulative, or permanent, file. I personally believe that information related to disciplinary matters should be placed in a separate administrative file that remains with the school. Students who are caught selling drugs at school or who have physically attacked school 10 employees or other students with resulting injuries are exceptions to my statement about not recording much discipline information in permanent files. Under those circumstances, I believe that the next school needs to know that there are risk management issues with these transfer students. Perhaps this simple rule of thumb will help: If a public school wouldn't record the information in a permanent file, a private school probably shouldn't either.

Here is helpful advice from an administrator in Oregon:

Review with your school's legal counsel the laws and regulations that govern what is permissible in a student's permanent (cumulative) record file. If the information you have on the student is information that you would need to make a fair consideration about that student were he/she applying to your school, then you need a means of passing that information to the next school.

J. The School's Position Regarding Married Students. Very few schools had policies that spoke to this issue. However, the few that did all concluded that there was no place for married or cohabiting students in the school. Here is a sample from one school:

[Our school] is a coeducational institution that expects students to maintain high standards of moral purity and remain accountable to their parents or guardians. Married students are classified by law as adults and are no longer subject to the will of their parents. [Our school] deals only with students who are responsible to parents or guardians. Married students will not be enrolled and will be terminated from enrollment in this school should a student get married.

Cohabitation is an unacceptable lifestyle. A student living under such conditions will neither be accepted for enrollment nor be permitted to continue attending [our school].

The above policy governs both male and female students.

Sample Pregnancy Policy

Below is a sample pregnancy policy from a Christian school in Oregon. Notice how it deals with the broad issues but leaves the procedural issues to the administration. The various potential procedural issues or scenarios should be discussed in advance by the administration so policies don't have to be formulated under the pressure of a crisis situation.

Any student who becomes, or causes another individual to become, pregnant shall upon verification be suspended immediately until a decision by the administration is reached on conditions of continued enrollment or immediate expulsion. [Note: several schools also gave students the opportunity to withdraw instead—perhaps a better option.] 11 Extenuating circumstances such as rape will be considered on a case-bycase basis.

It is the policy of the board to deal with each pregnant student on an individual basis. To make a general policy to govern the spectrum of issues inherent in these cases would be ineffective. Each case will be judged on the basis of its own merit, and the following list shows some of the items that will be taken into consideration:

• Attitude (one of repentance vs. hostility)
• Support of the parents
• Support of the church
• Past and current records of behavior
• Discontinuance of sexual sin
• Christian testimony

Any disciplinary action must apply equally to the male and female to avoid discrimination concerns.

From a school in Oregon

In conclusion, I agree with this Arkansas administrator who wrote me:

This issue is very difficult and must be handled in a sensitive and confidential manner seasoned with wise counsel and much prayer. No two cases will be exactly alike, so the wisdom of Solomon will be needed. I believe that a written policy is indispensable. It must be thoughtfully considered before the problem arises to avoid a reactionary response. A well-written policy will give guidance to administrators while allowing them to use their godly judgment in a case-bycase basis.

1. "Losing Our Promiscuity," Christianity Today, July 10, 2000, pp. 32-39.
2. "Facts of Life," American School Board Journal, August 1998, pp. 33-36.

Part II: Dealing with Student Drug Problems

In addition to facing a promiscuous culture, our students are also being tempted by the drug culture. In February 2002, the National Center for Education Statistics published its Digest of Education Statistics. One of the studies on reported drug usage came from the University of Michigan, which has surveyed its incoming freshman class each year since 1975 regarding their past drug usage. The 2002 survey revealed that 53 percent of the students had tried drugs. It also found that drug use is actually higher among high school seniors today than it was during the late '80s and early '90s. Another teen drug study conducted in 2003 showed that 30.3 percent of eighth graders, 44.9 percent of tenth graders, and 52.8 percent of twelfth graders had used illicit drugs at some time.  

While one would always hope that teenagers growing up in Christian homes and attending Christian schools would be drug free, the fact is, some aren't. However, it is hoped that statistics would reflect lower drug usage for them than their public school counterparts.

What happens in your school if a student is reported as having tried drugs or is using drugs? The following case study briefly explains how one ACSI member school tackled the problem using a redemptive discipline approach similar to that outlined in part I of this discipline article.

Case Study: Heritage Christian School, Indianapolis, Indiana

Heritage Christian School is a nondenominational Christian school in Indianapolis with about 1,600 students in grades K–12. The school is growing to a planned capacity of 1,750 students. When full, the school will have 135 students in every grade level. The administrator, Dr. Brian Simmons, writes:

Our Board of Directors is composed of nine individuals who serve on one of four committees: Finance, Academic Affairs, Personnel, and Spiritual Formation. A little over a year ago the Spiritual Formation Committee began to pray and dialog in earnest concerning our deep desire to see our students choose to become disciples of Jesus Christ. We recognize that Christian spiritual formation is a work of the Holy Spirit as the Word of God is applied to the hearts of our children. However, our desire is to be intentional about creating opportunities for the application of a Christian world and life view. As we prayed about this desire, we began to ask some very basic questions regarding our Student Code of Conduct, ministry opportunities, and the role of our discipleship director.

Specifically, concerning our Student Code of Conduct, we wondered out loud why students sometimes went to their parents or youth pastors for help when they got into major trouble, but our perception was that they seldom came to teachers or other school personnel. How could we more effectively use problems as opportunities to minister to the hearts of the children entrusted to our care?

As we prayed about these concerns, God sent a much unexpected answer to our prayers! Thirteen high school students in the fall of 2003 were found to have been involved in a major infraction of the Student Code of Conduct by their use of drugs. I called each board member to prepare them for upcoming expulsion hearings as mandated by our school policy. One by one, they asked, "How long do you think this will take?" I replied, "Probably all day this Saturday ... and Sunday ... and next Saturday and Sunday!" Their response was unanimous in that God had called them to this position for such a time as this! One by one, we met with broken teenagers and their equally broken parents.

Now this is the point where this story takes a turn from the traditional Christian school -school of thought.‖ As the board met individually with every student, God continued the work He had already begun in all our hearts. After  hours of deliberation, a child-specific probation was established for each individual student, and every student was invited to return under some very stringent guidelines. The guidelines included but were not limited to weekly accountability with a member of our 0school staff, random drug testing, faithful attendance in the youth group of a Bible-believing church, no further major infractions of the Student Code of Conduct, and daily Bible reading including a daily journal.

Heritage's school board and administrative staff believed it necessary to communicate with all the school families regarding this major discipline issue. The ACSI website contains a copy of the letter that was sent to parents. Because the issue was so carefully communicated to families, the school had little negative reaction about how the discipline issue was handled.

In addition to the basic redemptive discipline components that were listed in part I, the school required random drug testing for these students. The parents paid for the testing, and the lab reports had to be submitted to the school for verification that continued probation was appropriate.

If you need to locate a drug-testing service, you can check the website for drug and alcohol testing service providers. This site is maintained by the Drug and Alcohol Testing Industry Association, and it contains comprehensive listings of more than 1,000 drug and alcohol testing services. A search function allows you to zero in on your state or city. Once you have located a provider, you can use the website to print out a map to the provider's office.

Another helpful website is the Office of National Drug Control Policy website, And you can use the website to download a 24-page booklet entitled What You Need to Know About Drug Testing in Schools.

Dr. Simmons continues:

A few months later I bumped into the father of one of the children we had met with earlier in the year. I asked him how his son was doing. The father's eyes welled up with tears as he explained to me that he and his son had 0decided to read a book together in the wake of the problem we had addressed earlier in the year. The book they chose was I Really Want to Change ... So, Help Me God by James MacDonald. On page 51, MacDonald writes, "Without a spiritual conversion, you will never experience the process of transformation that this book is all about.... if you are not absolutely certain that you have converted and become a follower of Jesus Christ, you haven't." As the boy read these words with his father, the boy said, "Dad, that is my problem. I have never accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior." Right then and there, the father and his son got down on their knees, and the boy, a senior in our school, prayed  and accepted Jesus as his Savior! Wow! God changes us one person at a time, and He does His work of transformation from the inside out.

At the end of the school year, the school board met again with each of the 13 students and their families to review their progress and compliance with their discipline contract. All 13 students had passed random drug tests given over the previous eight months. The board thanked 12 of the students for their faithfulness to their individual discipline contracts. Several of those students then graduated from high school a few days later. The school invited the remaining students to enroll for the following school year. The one student who had fulfilled, but not wholeheartedly, the basics of the contract was not invited back for the following year. Dr. Simmons indicated in a phone conversation this fall that the returning students are all doing well in their walk with the Lord.

On the day of his son's graduation, a parent of a student who had been put on probation gave Dr. Simmons a letter of thanks. He concluded the letter by saying:

God has entrusted you and the staff, faculty, and board members of Heritage Christian School with the awesome task of leading our children in turbulent times. I thank God for all of you and your dedicated service to Him.

Part III: Appendix

Here you will find a letter to parents from Heritage Christian School regarding a student drug problem; a copy of a Minnesota school's discipline policy; a letter from parents of a formerly pregnant student; and two letters from formerly pregnant students.

Letter to Heritage Christian School Parents
[Sample letter on school letterhead to parents regarding a major student discipline problem. It explains how the school will be attempting to apply redemptive discipline to solve the problem.]


Dear Heritage Parents, Students, and Staff:

Over the past two weeks, it was revealed that 13 Heritage students had used or were currently using marijuana. Some very courageous parents, who loved their children enough to come forward and seek help from the Lord and from the school, started the process. We cannot thank them enough for their integrity and their courage. We truly believe lives have been saved because of their faithfulness.

Use of marijuana is a major violation of the HCS Student Code of Conduct. Our policy states that this violation mandates that a student appear before the HCS Board of Directors for a hearing to determine the consequences of such a violation and ultimately to determine if that student should be allowed to return to the student body.

For over 16 hours on Saturday and Sunday, the Board of Directors and administrators met with each student and his/her parents. We prayed together, we listened to the students, we listened to the parents, and we interacted with each student, challenging them to be honest and forthright about all the details surrounding the violation. At the end of the hearings, we deliberated the consequences for each student based on his/her actions, usage, contrition, and honesty with the board. One decision that was foremost on our minds was to determine whether any of the students needed to be removed from the student body for his/her own good, the physical safety of the body, and the spiritual health of the body. It was determined that none of the students required removal from the school.

Although no student was removed at this time, we imposed strong sanctions on each student to explicitly demonstrate the truth, to emphasize that there are always consequences of sin (Colossians 3:25), and to begin the reconciliation process. The extent of the sanctions varied according to each student's usage, circumstances of use, and perceived contrition and honesty during the interviews and hearing before the full board. Each student received some measure of each of the following sanctions:

1. Random Drug Testing. Each student will be required to undergo random drug testing for his/her remainder of time at Heritage.

2. Suspension. The students were suspended for a minimum of three days to a maximum of ten days. During that suspension, all homework receives a zero and cannot be made up, and test scores and quizzes missed receive an automatic 10 percent reduction.

3. Leadership and Extracurricular Suspension. All students have been removed from positions of leadership, i.e., class officer positions, and none will be allowed to 16 represent the school in external events for the remainder of the school year. All have been suspended from extracurricular activities, including activities such as sports and school plays, for the remainder of the year. Some of the students will be allowed to appeal to the board for reinstatement to participate in spring activities based on strict adherence to the terms of probation and on the recommendation from parents, counselor, and faculty advisor.

4. Community Service. Each student will be required to perform forty hours of community service.

5. Outside Counseling. Each student will be required to participate in counseling.

6. Accountability. Each student will be partnered with a member of the Heritage staff with whom he/she will meet weekly. The goal of this close attention is to ensure growth and personal accountability. Each student will review the assigned activities related to regular Bible study, journaling, prayer, and church/youth group activity with a staff adviser on a weekly basis.

7. Probation. All students will remain on probation for the remainder of their tenure at HCS. This means that any major violation of the Student Code of Conduct including, but not limited to, the further use of illegal drugs will result in an immediate movement to an expulsion hearing.

This was the first time that any of these students has been before the administration or the board for disciplinary reasons. Individual choices have brought all the above consequences. Their actions do not bring our judgment. They are fine young men and women, and we have a deep love for each of them as children of God. There is no question that mistakes and bad choices were made, but this is not about mistakes or bad choices; it is about sin. David wasn't thinking of himself when he wrote, "Have mercy on me, Oh God, according to your unfailing love.... Against you, you only, have I sinned." He fully understood that true repentance leads to anguish and sorrow over how God and others were impacted by his behavior. We have prayed that this life lesson will be learned by each of our students.

We realize that the HCS community consists of families who rely on the school and its board members to provide the best possible environment. This includes an environment in which each of us can have confidence as being well monitored and safe. Our goal is to do this and to restore these students. To some, the decision to include students who have made these mistakes may sound risky, but we feel that with all the conditions listed above, it can be done. We must all be aware of the reality of what has happened, and we must be able to talk and learn from it; yet we must know we cannot move to a "scarlet letter" way of thinking.

Although this situation has been dealt with, we are convinced we are not finished; sin is ugly business. We believe there are other students who need help. We are continuing our efforts to confirm the identity of these students so that we can help. Please talk to your children; talk to your friends. If someone is in danger—lost in bad choices, trapped in sin—please go to the parent of the child in trouble and come to us. Restoration cannot begin without truth and repentance (Acts 3:19). Please love them enough to come forward

It is now our prayer that a full and complete restoration begin for these students, that each will look back on this time as a time of correction and rebuke from a loving Father (Proverbs 3:11–12), forgiveness from a loving Savior (John 8:11), and restoration and acceptance from the Body of Christ. We can tell you that the result of this past weekend for each of us is what you find in 1 Samuel 7:12 where Samuel plants the stone between Mizpah and Shen, naming it Ebenezer and saying, "Thus far has the Lord helped us."

We are grateful and thankful for your continued support and prayer for the school family. In His Service,
[Signed by both the chairman of the school board and the school administrator]


Policy name: Student Redemptive Discipline Policy Policy number:

Page 1 of _____pages

Explanation: Procedures when dealing with immoral and illegal student involvement

Approved by:___________________ 

Effective date:______________

Last reviewed date:___________
Last revision date: ___________

Park Christian School (PCS) reserves the right to evaluate situations regarding student issues of morality and participation in illegal activities on a case-by-case basis. These situations include, but are not limited to, issues related to pregnancy; abuse; sexual activity; pornography; inappropriate solicitation; abortion; harassment; and the use of alcohol, tobacco, illegal drugs, etc. A redemptive approach should be considered if a student and his/her family exhibit repentant and humble hearts and if administratively determined that continued enrollment is in the best interest of the student and PCS student body.

Possible requirements for continued enrollment may include, but are not limited to the following. The student ...

1. is willing to meet with pastoral counsel on a regularly scheduled basis.
2. has parents who are cooperative with PCS and supportive of its expectations.
3. is willing to meet with a PCS faculty member on a regular basis for a specified number of weeks or months in which the faculty member will require specific scripture reading, journaling, accountability, etc.
4. is willing to sign a contract with PCS requiring specific elements of cooperation of the student and parents. This agreement can be cancelled at any time by PCS if the elements of the agreement are not fulfilled. Failure to meet the conditions of this agreement can result in suspension or termination of enrollment.
5. is willing to undergo necessary testing or ongoing random testing with results sent to the school if requested by PCS administration.
6. is willing to provide legal disclosure as needed and requested by PCS administration.
7. is willing to be homeschooled for a specified period of time in which the student completes lessons assigned by PCS staff and lessons are returned to PCS for grading and academic credit if deemed necessary by school administration.
8. is willing to pay an additional fee assessed to the family to compensate the PCS staff for their time to assist the student in the items described in #3 and #7 above.
9. is willing to agree that PCS may set limitations regarding student requests.19 10. is willing to agree that PCS may require a physician, counselor, attorney, or legal authority's opinion regarding continued attendance at PCS. If continued attendance is not advised, the PCS administration will provide guidance that will assist the student and parents with further education.

Reenrollment, probationary periods, graduation status, and participation in commencement exercises will also be considered on a case-by-case basis. [ACSI Note: Park Christian School is located in Moorhead, Minnesota. It has about 475 pupils in attendance.]

Letters Regarding Student Pregnancy

[Letter sent to ACSI from parents of a formerly pregnant student]

Winter 2004

We found out that our daughter [her name] was pregnant during her junior year at [school name]. At that time, we were attempting to heal from a number of family crises and knew that only the Lord could keep us from feeling completely overwhelmed. In the midst of all of the decisions we had to make, we were very grateful that the school board members allowed [our daughter] to continue attending the school. We realized that the process of coming to such a ruling must have been very challenging. The board desired to show compassion, but also had to consider what was best for the school.

Throughout this difficult period, many people from [the school] reached out to us. During a school board meeting, one of [our daughter's] teachers shared his perceptions of [our daughter's] relationship with the Lord, including her repentant spirit. We were very touched by his support as well as his boldness in speaking on the need to model God's grace when dealing with sin in the Christian community. We also received the comfort and encouragement of a school board member who knew that [our daughter] was planning to release her baby for adoption. The school administration was very concerned for our family as well. The administrator introduced [our daughter] to a young woman from the church, who mentored her throughout her pregnancy. That relationship played an integral part in [our daughter's] gaining self-respect and a desire to please God rather than man.

The decision to allow [our daughter] to stay at [the school] also had an impact on family members and friends. We knew that some questioned what a religious‖ school was going to do about a pregnant student, as well as how being pro-life would affect everyone's decisions. The tremendous support we received was a tangible answer to their questions and an affirmation of how precious we believe life to be. We look back and know that the Lord was always with us. He worked through the Body of Christ to reveal Himself as "the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort."


[Letter from their daughter]

During my pregnancy, I read a quote from the book Lady in Waiting that really helped me to focus on the Lord's will rather than my own. The quote was, "A woman becomes a woman when she becomes what God wants her to be." Being able to stay at [the school] allowed me to begin that process.

I was very aware that the school board struggled with their deci0sion. The members did what many Christians say they will do when it comes to supporting someone going through a crisis pregnancy. I was grateful that they focused on the fact that my sin was immoral, but not the carrying of my baby. The board's decision helped me to grow in my relationship with God because I was forgiven. That's what Christianity is all about. Although it was sometimes difficult being at [the school], if I had gone to public school, kids may have thought it was cool that I was pregnant and would have looked down on me for my decision to release my baby for adoption.

The wife of one of [the school's] youth leaders was a great help. She encouraged me to make the decision to release my baby based on what I knew was best, not on what other people wanted.

While I was at the hospital, my principal, teachers, and friends from school came to see me. It was a very important time to know that others cared for my child and me. Had I not stayed at [the school] I would have felt isolated and misunderstood. With the help of my family and school, I made it through one of the most difficult times of my life, and I experienced God's mercy in a very personal way. [signature]

[Letter from a formerly pregnant student who is now a Christian school teacher]

Dear Mr. Carney:

I attended [school name] from the 7th through 11th grades. During the summer of my junior year I found out I was pregnant. I was sixteen at the time. I did not even ask to return to [the school] as I felt there was absolutely no reason they would allow me to come back.

I went on to receive my diploma on time through a public high school.

When my son was one year old, I married his father, who was not a Christian at the time. I waited to marry him to make sure it was a marriage of love and not convenience.

The same year I was married, I enrolled at a four-year college. Four and a half years later I received by BA in journalism. I took some time off and later went back to receive my California teaching credential.

I now work full time at [the same Christian school] as an English teacher and am currently pursuing my master's degree in administration of education. My son attends [the same school] and is in junior high school. My husband and I celebrated our twelve-year anniversary this past February.

As a high school student, I was very sad that I could not continue my education with my friends, or graduate with them. I do feel that [the administrator] of [the school] was one of the few people who truly offered me his support, even though I did not return to [the school]. Never did I receive anything but love and encouragement from him.

I have no negative feelings towards him or the school because I felt he had no choice at the time. Do I think we should allow pregnant girls to remain? I think it must be handled on a case-by-case basis and only home school or independent studies should be considered.

What I went through was not easy, and I would not wish it upon anyone. God sustained me through many difficult times, and it was because of supportive people like [the administrator] of [the school] that I did not turn away from God.

We must show God's love to teenage mothers. Their lives will be hard enough.

In Christ,

Notice: These articles are designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. They have been provided to member schools with the understanding that ACSI is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting, tax or other professional service. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional person should be sought. Laws vary by jurisdiction and the specific application of laws to particular facts requires the advice of an attorney.

Download Practicing Redemptive Discipline, Parts 1–3