Re: DSM: [SVS Discussion Board] Re: Child Safety

Andrew Smallman (
Tue, 11 Apr 2000 16:50:18 -0700 (PDT)

Scott et al,

I apologize to those who feel I am going on too long with my questions and
comments. This topic is an especially pertinent one to me as we ponder
things like this at PSCS. And it is rare that I have (read: take) the
time to add my thoughts to these great dialogue threads.

As a point of context, at PSCS we recently had a big dialogue around a new
teen driving law in Washington state (one that is becoming pretty common
across the land) that puts certain restrictions on 16 year-olds for
periods of time after first being granted their licenses. Not that we
could do anything about it, of course. It was just that several people,
youth & adult, wanted the opportunity to voice their opinions about it.

One argument one of our students made against the new restrictions is a
familiar one to many Americans. Echoing "no taxation without
representation", he argued that legislators have no right to put
restrictions on people who are not allowed to elect them. Certainly, his
argument not only applies to driving restrictions but to EVERYTHING. Yet
the likelihood of those under 18 getting to vote is slim so many dismissed
his point. But I think it is reflective of many youths distaste for
arbitrary standards based strictly on age.

I appreciate the fact that some of the older students at SVS took a stand
that, in essence, indicates that they feel the standard at SVS should be
greater than that set by the society as a whole, that age-based standards
may be antithetical to the SVS philosophy. I suspect, and hope, that
their stance gave everyone pause to think. And, to be frank, I am
disappointed that the decision to create an age-based standard at SVS was
determined by a precedent set in the greater society.

Having said that, I will admit that we have done the same thing in other
circumstances at PSCS. It disappointed me then, too. For instance, we
are not legally obligated to require parents to sign enrollment contracts
that bind them to timely tuition payments. For a school that is based on
trust and respect to do so can be argued to be contrary to the school's
philosophy. Yet, being part of the greater society, it could amount to a
form of administrative suicide NOT to do it. So we do. At PSCS, like at
SVS, we recognize we cannot separate from the fact that schools like ours
exist in a society with certain standards and we must abide by these, even
if it means compromising certain things.

Feel free at this point to accuse me of talking out of both sides of my
mouth! ;)

As a slight aside, using the betting on a horse race analogy to me is an
"apple and orange" comparison. Just because the JC would prosecute a
minor for betting does not mean the JC should prosecute a 12 year-old who
refused to sign out (when older students don't have to), unless the 12
year-old refusing to sign out is engaging in an illegal act (as a 15
year-old attempting to bet is doing).

As a complete aside, Scott, it is interesting you used the horse racing
analogy. We had a student at PSCS request an activity -- being taught how
to handicap horse races -- that has been popular in the past. Several
other students signed up for the activity, facilitated by my father, a
correspondent with the Thoroughbred Times, and myself (I used to be a
statistician for the Daily Racing Form -- how's that for a "prior life"
activity??). So every Monday morning for an hour this group gets together
and is learning how to read the Racing Form and weigh the factors of
choosing one horse over another. We allow mock wagers on pre-recorded

In a month or so we will offer interested students the opportunity to hone
their skills at Emerald Downs, the local racetrack. They will even get
the chance to make their selections over the satellite network that
broadcasts the local races to other tracks in the country and into Nevada.
But we are adamant that they are not allowed to make actual wagers unless
they are 18, legal betting age in Washington. If those under 18 tried,
their action would be turned over to what we call the Transgression

I told you it was a total aside. :)

Thanks for letting me speak my mind. And, as always, I appreciate the
openmindedness of these threads and their reflections of similar
experiences for young people in SVS-like schools.


On Tue, 11 Apr 2000, Scott David Gray wrote:

> There was certainly discussion of having the entire community bear the
> same cross. A couple older students suggested that they would prefer
> live under such strictures than that they be exempted from them.
> However the community as a whole (all ages -- everyone in the school
> took part in this conversation) decided that it was not
> philosophically inconsistent for the school to offer an open campus
> _to_those_students_whom_we_can_offer_one_to_. The JC would prosecute
> a 15 year old student who goes to the track and bets on horses during
> the day, but would not prosecute a 22 year old student who does the
> same -- this is not "age discrimination," it is a recognition that we
> exist with the context of the wider community.
> Andrew Smallman wrote:
> > Hey Scott,
> >
> > Thanks for the response. I certainly understand the fine-line to which
> > you refer below.
> >
> > Another question -- was there discussion around the idea of all students
> > having the same rules, regardless of age? I know there are many, many
> > precedents in our society for age-based qualifications (driving, voting,
> > drinking, etc.), but those are often seen by youth (and adults!) as
> > completely arbitrary. Also, could a "mature" 12 year-old petition the
> > school meeting and get a waiver or something, based on demonstrated
> > responsibility?
> >
> > Personally, I don't like decisions being made solely on age, hence the
> > bias in my questions. I'm hoping there is a way around it. ;)
> >
> > Thanks again,
> >
> > ---Andy -- Puget Sound Community School, Seattle
> >
> > On Tue, 11 Apr 2000, Scott Gray wrote:
> >
> > > Hi all,
> > >
> > > I'm Scott Gray, from the Sudbury Valley School in Massachusetts.
> > >
> > > On Tue, 11 Apr 2000, Andrew Smallman wrote:
> > >
> > > > My question has to do with how the age markers were determined. Mike
> > > > wrote, "Those between eight and thirteen years old are required to 'sign
> > > > out' and be accompanied when they take advantage of the 'open campus'
> > > > policy. Those under eight years (who typically lack parental permission to
> > > > leave campus), are now constrained as well by a school policy that
> > > > restricts them to campus except for organized 'school excursions'."
> > >
> > > An examination of local law and precedent, and a gut decision as to
> > > what the lowest age is that could be defended in the Massachusetts
> > > courts if we were ever challenged. It really is a gut decision --
> > > whatever number one puts forward, some people would be much more
> > > comfortable if it were a little higher, and others are convinced that
> > > we could adequately defend an age that is a little lower.
> > >
> > > --Scott David Gray

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