Maintaining Honor Under Code

Breaking Code

Anna Grose, Staff Reporter

The High School Party: a common and cliché scene. It’s likely that a few of you have experienced it a handful of times, and it is equally likely that you’ve witnessed the extent to which teen alcohol and drug use are popularized by the student population.
But just as a significant portion high school students have experienced the famed high school house party, a significant portion of the Shorewood High School student body is also held to a higher standard of self-management. This isn’t the higher standard that one is held to by their parent’s expectations, or their own morals, however. This is a legally binding contract. This is the Leadership Code of Conduct, better known by many as the Honor Code or simply the Code.

While on Code, students can’t be caught participating in any illegal activity other than non­criminal traffic offenses, they can’t be present where illegal activity is occurring, and they are held to obey any rules that may be published in the School’s handbook.
Students who are a part of ASB, a sports captain, on performance dance, or participate in a number of many other activities at the school are required to sign this document along with their parents. If they are caught in even the smallest violation of the Code, they risk losing their position in school activities as well as any combination of short and long-term suspension.

“It’s hard to stand up and say no to peers and a lot of coaches and leaders of different groups felt like that if that became a requirement and that if the leaders signed it, it would somehow give them an out,” explained athletic director Vicki Gorman. In other words, Gorman explained that the code was put in place by the administration to give the students who sign it a way to avoid peer pressures without the guilt. She went on to say “I think it’s fair because you don’t have to sign it if you’re not going to go through with it.”

But despite the school’s best efforts to use the Code as a tool to maintain certain standards of student excellence, many students feel that these efforts fall vastly too short. Mostly, students are concerned about the effect that the Code has on the practice of acting as the designated driver and how this will affect rates of students participating in drunk driving in Shoreline.
In addition to the students that have signed the leadership code of conduct, students in many other school activities are also mandated to sign different codes of conduct. All athletes, for example, must sign the athletic code, which binds them to a similar, yet a less severe set of rules for the entirety of their sports season.
Imagine being at that cliché party once again. More than likely you pictured the drunk antics of the teenagers surrounding you. It is the instinct of many to help their intoxicated friends out in this situation, and many would want to keep their friends safe and possibly even offer them a sober ride home. But there is a nuanced problem that students on code face when confronted with this desire to help their peers stay safe.

The third clause of the Leadership Code of conduct states that “I agree to immediately remove myself from any situation where illegal activities are occurring, or where other persons engaging in conduct that violates school or district rules. I will report any situation that poses a danger to the health or safety of other students or myself or that may be a violation of law, school or district rules, and/or this code of conduct.” So it becomes expected not only for the leaders of the school to leave at any sign of underage drinking or drug use, but it is also implied that they are not allowed to drive others who may be intoxicated home safely, even if they are completely sober themselves. In addition to this, it is also an expectation that they report their peers to school officials if they see them participating in what is considered to be against the Code. Essentially, they are required to become an extension of the administration in the privacy of the student world.

One senior student who had signed the code themselves expressed that “A lot of people I know just go to [parties] to drive people home and be like the [designated drivers] because they’re trying to keep people safe and going against that I feel is really stupid because really they’re being responsible and they’re caring for people. Knowing the school doesn’t want people to even do that, I feel like that’s really stupid and messed up,”. This student does not stand alone in their opinion. Many students seem to be under the impression that the code they are obligated to sign is a more of a hindrance to the safety of the student body than a tool of abstinence.

Another senior student explained how they felt about the real consequences of the code. “In any situation, you are not allowed to intervene when there is drunk driving or someone just needs to get home. You’re not allowed to be a good friend,” following with “Our issue with it personally is that you’re not allowed to even be there. So if you wanted to be a designated driver that’s considered breaking the code, which is not fair especially as people in higher positions on cheer or in DECA or on ASB or a sports captain are seen as leaders and as someone people can rely on. If you can’t be relied on to be driven home then that’s an issue for me.” These students feel that their hearts are in the right places as they seek simply to protect their fellow students from the perils of drunk driving. They are looking to help others, and are being stopped in their tracks by a document that they signed in order to officially represent the best values a leader can possess at this school.

Of the students who had at one time signed the code, when interviewed, many students couldn’t recall what the Code entailed or was misinformed about what the Code held them to. There was a visible trend in their responses: the students that were more aware of what the rules of the code were, were the students who had been in trouble with the code in the past for offering safe rides home to others who had been participating in underage drinking and/or smoking. This points to the possibility of a misunderstanding of the severity of the code at the point of signing and perhaps an inadequacy in the education of the terms of the code.

Throughout the interview process, not one interviewee believed that the majority of students followed the rules of the code. “I think they sign it because they feel they need to,” said one Junior student who had also signed the code, following with “I still think, no matter what you say, people will still sign it just to sign it, without actually intending on following it.”

Scores of students expressed their worry over the culture that the code and the administration encourage by using this set of rules in this school. “The way that things are handled at this school promotes people lying,” told another student. They feel that if the administration does not want them to be offering rides home to their intoxicated peers, that they must lie in order to protect their friends and their classmates, as well as their own elected or earned positions within the school. What they seek at the most basic and genuine level is to keep others out of harm’s way and they believe that the rules of the leadership code of conduct that they are roped into signing, are impeding them from doing even the most simple acts of peer service.

*John Tower contributed to the reporting of this story*