• Frequently-Asked Questions (FAQ) about the Radnor High School Academic Honor Code

    (page updated August 28, 2009)

     
    This document will continue to grow as the process goes along. The RHS Honor Committee the group of students, teachers, parents, administrators, and a board member) who worked during the spring and summer of 2007 to develop a draft of an Academic Honor Code for RHS maintains this document to help address questions that have been raised about the process and the proposed Academic Honor Code.
     

    If you have a question or comment, please contact Carl Rosin (carl.rosin@rtsd.org), who served with Laura Hoover as faculty co-chair of the Honor Committee. The presidency of the Honor Council is a rotating position occupied by students.
     

    Thank you all for your questions, which have help build this FAQ. The current list of questions:

    1) Why an honor code for Radnor? (posted 7/26/07)

    2) Can a public school have an honor code? (posted 7/26/07, revised 8/13/08)
    5) How will community input be solicited, and how often? (posted 7/26/07, revised 8/17/09)
    9) I heard there was a survey of students on Honor. What were the results, and how will those be used? (posted 4/30/08)
    10) At a School Board meeting, it was mentioned that a Radnor graduate lost his or her place in a college because of a violation of the Academic Honor Code. Is this true? (posted 8/17/09)
     

    1) Why an honor code for Radnor?
     
    Radnor stands for positive values. Some events of 2006-2007 made it seem to many people unfortunately and we believe incorrectly that we do not. The existence of such confusion suggests that we have to make a clear statement about what integrity means to us and how we plan to back that up.

    We surveyed the community in March and April of 2007, and the sixty-plus respondents students, teachers, parents overwhelmingly supported the idea of an honor code. More recently, the investigation into this year's difficulties reinforced that support with a recommendation.

    Perhaps most important to us, though, were the comments of dozens of students at our March forum and informally throughout the spring, which made it clear that students did not know what the expectations and consequences were for "academic integrity." This year provided Radnor a key opportunity to assert what we believe, a teachable moment.
     

    2) Can a public school have an honor code?

     
    Yes. Our research did not reveal public school honor codes in Pennsylvania, though. We did find them in many other states, including New Jersey, Virginia, Florida, and California. This is a movement that is stirring.

    When Mrs. Hoover and four RHS students attended the University of Pennsylvania Ethics Conference in April 2007, they met many students from other public schools, where the interest in an honor code was also growing. Radnor may end up being the first public school in this area to have an honor code, but we will not be the last. [Note: We found out -- in mid-2008 -- that Cheltenham High School has an honor code, and has had it for quite a while. Theirs is part of a general student handbook, as opposed to a separate document/organization.]

    You can use the Bibliography (which is posted on the Academic Honor Code web page) to find out websites you can go to, to read these other public schools' honor codes.
     

    3a) Why did we borrow our Honor Code from the particular schools referenced in the Bibliography of the Academic Honor Code (The Haverford School, Valley Forge Military Academy, etc.)?

    We didn't borrow our Academic Honor Code from any other code. Our committee developed this Code to represent what we believe Radnor does and should stand for.

    Like any other researcher would, we looked around for what kinds of honor codes were out there. Our referencing those private schools (and the colleges listed) doesn't mean that we borrowed anything from any particular one of them, only that we read their honor codes and that ideas from there may have helped inspire us. It is an important aspect of academic integrity for students to give credit to any source that helped contribute to a process or product. We are trying to have our actions match our words, by giving credit to everything we read as we were working on this issue.
     
    The public school honor codes, which were developed in situations more similar to ours, did provide especially useful models. The one that helped most was the W.T. Woodson HS Honor Code, in which we saw a number of key ideas and phrasings for these ideas that we felt expressed particularly well what Radnor stands for. Accordingly, we asked for and received permission from Woodson to adapt pieces of their Code that are appropriate to our purpose.

    We are grateful to those other schools for posting their honor codes, and especially to Woodson HS, whose principal was extremely gracious in supporting Radnor's honor program. Their work provided good information that helped guide us as we worked on this. And, yes, some of them did have some great ideas that we used. After all, there's no reason to "reinvent the wheel" entirely.

    3b) How is our code different from others?

    Ours as proposed initially, at least applies only to academic work products, which are things on which students are assessed in class: tests, essays, quizzes, projects, performances, etc. Most other codes talk about general behavior. For the first year of our Code, we wanted to limit it to a subset of all possible situations, to make it more manageable. In future years, if we expand our Honor Code beyond academic products, the process will again be open to community review and contribution.

    Our concept of using the Honor Council for "restoration" is different from what any of our resources use.

    There are other differences, and of course many similarities too. One key thing for us is that our Code will be re-considered every year, and feedback on it will be gathered continuously. We are committed to making this a living document that fairly and accurately represents this community, and therefore it must be open to input from the community.

    3c) Why is it appropriate for us to research colleges honor codes in addition to high schools?

    First: Relatively few high schools have honor codes (so far), so we extended our search to find a broader array of approaches.

    Second: Our high school experience is supposed to be preparing students for what comes in their future, and knowledge of the sorts of things that are expected of college students will help our students be ready when they get there. In a way, it puts the idea of a high school honor code in context.

    (It is important to note that we do not consider this a college code. Among the codes on our Bibliography, the public high school codes are those that inspired us as having the most relevant ideas.)

    4) How will confidentiality be maintained if the Honor Council has parents/students/community members on it?

    Student offenders will never be identified to the Honor Council. Such a de-identified format means that name and all other identifying information will be withheld by the administration so the Honor Council hears about only anonymous situations. Only if a student chooses to present himself or herself to the Council will his or her identity be known. It is important to know that the Council has no punitive authority, in any case.

    In addition, Honor Council members will be bound by an agreement they will sign, in which they pledge confidentiality about any case they happen to hear about. A Council member who violates this bond of trust will be removed from the Council.
     
    Finally, the district's attorney, Mr. Levin, has trained Honor Council members on confidentiality issues.
     

    5) How will community input be solicited, and how often?

    We plan to designate a two-week time for review each spring, which we will advertise long in advance and promote in school and in the community.

    We hope to organize open forums, post community surveys, and have public discussion in school, perhaps online, at the PTSA, and even at School Board meetings. Scheduling may make it difficult to hold one particular event or another, but we certainly will make the Academic Honor Code Review a focus of everyone's attention every year.

    The Honor Council will accept suggestions all year, and re-examine the Code every spring when the new Honor Council members have joined for the next year. The details are still to be worked out, of course (its not even approved yet!), but we would like to see it be re-approved in public by the School Board each summer.
     
    In 2008, for example, this review period ran from May 1 to May 15. Students and faculty were able to meet during lunch (a Brown Bag Lunch sponsored by the Honor Council during all three lunch periods) on Wednesday, May 7, and anyone in the community was able to speak to this during the PTSA meeting to be held that evening.
     
    If at any time you want to contribute an idea but can't attend a meeting, or no meeting is scheduled for a while, email your comment or question to Mr. Rosin.
     

    6) The draft of the Academic Honor Code (originally posted 6/29/07) has been revised four times. Why?

    As the process has gone on, we have received thoughtful and productive feedback that has refocused the proposal on a number of key points. Our main goal of the process has always been to help our school be a place where people act honorably; feedback that helps promote that goal is greatly appreciated.

    For example, the Honor Council at first was expected to hear appeals of the principals rulings. Concerns about timeliness, cooperation, and the legal authority to impose certain consequences made it clear that this was not an ideal situation. Now, the Honor Council focuses on educating everyone about Radnors expectations and the Code that supports those principles, and other positive actions such as restoration after an offense.

    After the July '07 School Board meeting, we decided to simplify the document, in response to comments from parents (over email and in person) and Board members. Along with this, we are responding to input by agreeing that more of the development of the Code be put in the hands of the school community especially the students during the school year.
     
    After Dr. McAdams joined RTSD, he proposed further simplifications, which were seconded by members of the committee, the School Board, administrators, and RTEA (the teachers' union). This was a good sign, and a good step forward.

    We believe that these natural developments in the draft of the Academic Honor Code have made and continue to make it something that represents our community better. It is important to us on the Honor Committee that the Radnor community members see this as a process in which they have a say, and that their contributions are respected.

    7) How will students learn about what is expected of them under the Academic Honor Code?

    Each year all students will be taken through a series of workshops in order to understand the meaning of the honor code and the expectations of honorable academic behavior. These workshops will take place in a small group format, led by the students on the Honor Council, to allow each student to ask questions, clarify information, and discuss possible scenarios and situations they may find themselves in this school year.

    In September of our first year, Radnor also had a University of Pennsylvania professor of ethics and law, Dr. Tara Radin, join us for two days to discuss with students what honor means to them. Again, this was done in a small group format so that students can interact and engage with the concepts. The Honor Council spoke with rising freshmen in August of 2008, in what we hope will be an annual part of each class's introduction to the high school. We will continue to develop projects and events for student education in future years.

    One of the greatest concerns we heard from students was that material was often delivered in a large assembly format that made it difficult to understand and ask questions. We are hoping to change that perspective and give students the opportunity to feel comfortable with the Academic Honor Code.

    Teachers will be talking about expectations for their classes, of course, and we hope to develop posters and other documents that will also help keep these important issues which are essential to our core function as a school in front of students throughout their high school careers.

     

    8) What happens during the school year, to keep this process developing?

    A variety of activities throughout the year keep the issue in front of students, faculty, families, and administration. Just a few examples:

    • On the first day of school in 2007, students met in small-group discussions (led by Peer Trainers who developed a "lesson plan" for these conversation) to be introduced to the concept of the Code and its contents. This happened in freshman homerooms in 2008 and beyond.
    • As described in #7, above: workshops with Dr. Radin were held.
    • The Honor Council hosts "Brown Bag Lunches" almost every month, during which students and faculty meet to discuss a regional, national, or international issue relating to honor. Some of these in 2007-08 included: the New England Patriots' "SpyGate" scandal at the beginning of the football season, the college admissions process, and "grade-grubbing". In 2008-09, we talked about cheating in middle school, among other topics. We're always looking for new topics, and welcome suggestions.
    • A contest -- with cash prizes -- to develop a logo and slogan for the Academic Honor Code was held in December 2007. An essay contest -- with a cash prize -- was held in April 2008. We hope to find money sources that will allow us to have more contests in the future.
    • Before exam period in January 2008, each student received a pamphlet entitled "A Guide to Exam Period", developed by the Honor Council. This pamphlet gives tips about how to prepare for exams and where to find help. As it says, "If you are well-prepared -- academically and emotionally -- for the challenge of exam period, you will be able to make better decisions, avoid risky situations, and be more successful."

    March is the biggest month of the year for the Honor Council, with elections for next year's council and the Essay Contest heading the bill. We also plan to invite guest speakers in to help promote future Brown Bag Lunches.

    And, of course, administrators and teachers and peers will be keeping the issue of academic integrity in the conversation. We thank everyone for their contributions so far!

    9) I heard there was a survey of students on Honor. What were the results, and how will those be used?

    On the first day of the 2007-08 school year, students filled in a survey. The results have been tallied -- they were briefly presented at the April 29, 2008, meeting of the School Board. If you would like to get a copy of the results, please contact Mr. Rosin at carl.rosin@rtsd.org.

    10) At a School Board meeting (summer 2009), it was mentioned that a Radnor graduate lost his or her place in a college because of a violation of the Academic Honor Code. Is this true? 

     
    To the best of our knowledge, the statement that was mentioned is not an accurate representation of the unfortunate event. It does seem that a college retracted an acceptance from a Radnor student a few years ago because of an alleged infraction against RHS rules, but this was not because of the Academic Honor Code, which was not in place when that student was graduated and which has no provision for punitive notification of a college.
     
    The RHS Academic Honor Code is an aspirational code, not a punitive one. It promotes values we in the community want to see -- values like honesty, integrity, respect, and responsibility. The Honor Council continues to educate about and promote the Code as something we all hope to rise to.
     
    It is true that RHS, like every other school, has a set of rules for conduct and a set of disciplinary actions that can be levied at offenders. It is also true that certain actions that incur administrative discipline also violate the Academic Honor Code. Discipline is an administrative function, however, that is entirely separate from the Honor Council.