Handbooks outline guidelines. They are not contracts. When you send your child to private school,you sign a contract clearly spelling out your obligations and the school's obligations. That contract is a binding legal document. Unfortunately it is one of those documents with pages of fine print that you file carefully in a safe place. That's where the handbook comes in. The handbook covers the day to day rules, policies and procedures which you and your child must adhere to and abide by while part of the school community. The handbook usually explains the rules, policies and procedures in great detail. "I didn't know that!" will be an unacceptable reason for breaking the rules because every student is expected to read, know and apply the material contained in their school's handbook.
Many handbooks are online. Depending on the school, the access may be password protected and limited to current parents and other members of the school community. Many schools publish their handbooks without password protection. They are not concerned about security. They want anybody to see their policies and procedures. Expectations are better
set if that important information is out there in full view. Most online private school handbooks are in PDF format. It is extremely difficult to alter PDF files. They also are easy to print out if a hard copy is necessary.
The purpose of a handbook. Handbooks serve several purposes. They explain rules and regulations, policies and
procedures. They also detail the consequences for not adhering to those policies and procedures.
Explaining the rules and regulations. One purpose a good school handbook serves is to explain policies. For example, if the school issues report cards 3 times a year, the handbook will stipulate when and how the report cards are issued.
Boarding schools list their weekend policies in their handbooks. If you want to take a weekend away from school, your parents need to communicate their permission to the school. Your daughter cannot decide that she wants to spend the weekend in Boston without your knowing.
One of the reasons schools have strict, well-enforced policies and procedures is because they take their role of surrogate parent very seriously. That's one of the things a parent pays for when he sends his child off to private school: safety and security.
Take medications, for example. Most schools will not allow students to have medications with them while at school. All medications will be under the control of the school nurse/medical office who will administer them according to the strict instructions which your doctor has given the school.
Another aspect which most handbooks address is conduct while at school but off campus. Let's say your daughter and some of her classmates are permitted to walk into town. Their behaviour must follow the school's guidelines even though they technically are not on school grounds. You know how teenagers bridle against restrictions and rules. That may well be, but make sure that your daughter totally understands that she must be on her best behavior. The first townie who sees a group of St. Swithin's girls creating a disturbance will report it to the school. And we don't want that to happen.
Consequences for not adhering to those policies and procedures. Each school sets its own guidelines. You should review the handbook of any school to which you plan to apply simply because you may have differences of opinion about how certain things are handled. Better to know before you get involved rather than after something happens when your child is at school.
Discipline codes usually have an escalation path depending on the severity of the infraction. You need to understand that the school will not hesitate to invoke its right to discipline your child if its disciplinary processes deem that necessary. If you don't approve, your option is simple: withdraw your child.
If this all sounds hopelessly rigid and uncompromising, perhaps it is. But then so are the many rules, regulations and laws by which we adults must comport ourselves on a daily basis. The best time to teach compliance and the consequences for non-compliance is when children are young.
Examples of school handbooks