“A democracy is more than a form of government; it is primarily a mode of associated living, of conjoint communicated experience.” (John Dewey) We believe that a democratic community enables individuals who participate in this mode of associated living to experience both freedom of choice and responsibility for the actions that follow from their choices. We also believe that personal growth is fostered by a democratic community where the individual has the opportunity to both develop responsibility and influence the direction of the school community.
We believe that people are born curious – with the ability to reach out, interact with, and make meaning from the environment. We also believe that each individual is unique and has the ability to change and grow. Our democracy values individual rights. At The Highland School we accept each person – regardless of her/his background or past experiences – as an equal member of our democracy with the same rights and responsibilities as every other member. By practicing this belief in democratic process and freedom of choice, the school allows members to pursue their own interests, vote their consciences, make their own decisions and learn from the consequences of those decisions.
Democratic process requires communication, shared valuing of the principles of democracy, and trust in the ability of individuals to make meaning from their experiences and determine their own lives. Our Constitution includes ways to protect our mode of associated living. However, this document is not a stone tablet designed to make things stay the same. It is meant to be a tool used by unique individuals to create a living, breathing democratic process.
INTERESTS AND INTERACTIONS
The activities of the school are based on the interests of the school members, not on a curriculum decided by authorities inside or outside of the school. The individual has the freedom and opportunity to develop interests, interact with others and the school environment, and/or spend time alone. Each school member has the opportunity to participate in the activities of guilds or committees, start a new interest-based group, request assistance from school members, investigate school resources, travel on school trips, explore the internet, and reflect on his or her life experiences.
The primary method of evaluation at Highland is individual reflection on one’s own experience. We do not evaluate students by grades or external appraisal methods. Each individual member can reflect on his or her own behavior, academic achievements, and personal growth at any time. As a school, all members can reflect on how the goals of the school are reflected in everyday practice. In sum, evaluation processes at The Highland School are determined by individual school members and their freely chosen methods.
Section 1: General School Meeting:
The school is governed by the General School Meeting (GSM). Each General School Meeting member has one vote. There must be a quorum (determined by the GSM) present in order to hold a GSM and it must be held at a time when all members have an opportunity to attend. The GSM allocates tuition funds, creates school rules and delegates authority to other smaller groups over special areas of interest. Structures created by the GSM can change as needed; for example Guilds, Judicial System, or Graduation Policy. Decisions are made by voting; with at least a majority vote required to pass any motion.
School members are allowed to delegate responsibility to individuals, guilds, or committees to act for them; this in no way relieves the members of responsibility for the actions of those delegated. If the delegated jobs are not performed to the satisfaction of the GSM, the GSM can remove those individuals or groups responsible.
Section 2: Judicial System:
Rules are enforced through the Judicial System, which is responsible to the GSM. If the Judicial System cannot make a decision about the situation, the case will be referred to the GSM.
Section 3: Board of Directors:
The GSM delegates the Board of Directors (BOD) the responsibility for all capital income and expenditures as well as conducting all school business with the county, state, and federal authorities in the name of The Highland School, Inc. An elected representative of the GSM is always a member of the BOD. The GSM elects and removes BOD members, and by WV state law, there can be no less then 3 BOD members (including a President and Secretary/Treasurer) at any time.
Section 4: Financial Affairs:
The GSM is responsible for all monies and properties of the school. The GSM can delegate responsibility to a Treasurer responsible for accounting for tuition funds and other Meeting income.
The Highland School, Inc., is a nondiscriminatory primary and secondary school institution. The Highland School prohibits discrimination in employment, educational programs, and activities on the basis of race, ethnic or national origin, color, creed, religion, political beliefs, sex, age, disability, veteran status, economic class, sexual orientation, gender identity, or associational preference.
ADMISSIONS AND DEPARTURES
Section 1: Admissions
The primary criterion for school membership is the person’s desire to participate in The Highland School’s democratic life. Prospective school members must also be capable of learning to participate in a democracy and not be a danger* to the school community, as decided by the GSM. Legal guardian(s) must support students’ decision to apply. At least a ⅔ majority vote is required for an individual to become a member. Further requirements for admission are the responsibility of the GSM.
Section 2: Departures
Students leave Highland in one of three ways: they graduate, withdraw, or are expelled. The General School Meeting determines the criteria for withdrawal. A 2/3 vote of the General School Meeting is required to expel a school member. The primary reason for expulsion is that a school member is a danger* to the school community. Students being expelled must be given a reason for their expulsion.
*Danger to the school community can be physical or seriously detrimental to school life.
The General School Meeting is responsible for hiring staff. The GSM can allow other people besides meeting members to participate in this process. However, only GSM members can vote on staff hiring/firing.
One function of staff is to assist students in pursuit of the students’ individual interests. They must also believe in the school’s values and be capable of participating in the democratic process. Staff should be interested in and respectful of the activities of students. Staff should also be resourceful (able to find out about a wide variety of interest areas) and interested in life processes. Staff must be willing to reflect on their own activities in light of the school’s philosophy. Staff members need to function as responsible people on consistent basis.
When students - through self-evaluation and reflection - decide that they are ready to leave THS, they may elect to participate in the graduation process. Graduation is a process unique to each student. Students demonstrate to the GSM that they are ready to be responsible for themselves in the world beyond the school. Students form a committee to assist them in developing and meeting the criteria for graduation. The student’s graduation committee must be approved by the GSM. As part of the graduation process, the student and his/her committee may develop a transcript to submit to colleges or potential employers. Prospective graduates must demonstrate understanding of the principles of the school, an area of expertise, and personal survival skills. Length of student membership, prior to graduation, is established by the GSM in their graduation policy. However, no set time period can guarantee graduation. After recommendation from the student’s committee, the student presents a Thesis describing why and how he/she is ready to graduate from the school and be responsible in the world at large. To receive a diploma, GSM must approve candidate by a 2/3 majority vote.
BILL OF RIGHTS
Each and every member has the right to equal treatment under the rules and due process. There is no ex post facto (after the fact) application of rules.
Members have the right to participate in the democratic process. They have the right to have the opportunity to know how things are being done at school.
Members have the right to participate in the Judicial System. No cruel and unusual punishments will be given. Members have the right to face their accusers.
Members have the right of protection against double jeopardy.
Members have the right to decide what they want to learn and to hold whatever beliefs they choose so long as they do not act in ways inconsistent with the school’s democratic process.
Each member has the right to privacy of possession. There can be no unlawful search and seizure.
Members have the right to freedom of speech, religion, and press.
Members have the right to assemble.
All rights not limited by this democratic constitution belong to the individual members. There is no right to overthrow the democratic governing process.
AMENDING THE CONSTITUTION
Calling for a Constitutional Convention
A call for a Constitutional Convention can occur if the following criteria are met:
1) A convention can only be held once per school year.
2) 80% quorum of current GSM members are present.
3) A ¾ majority of the GSM must be in favor of the request to hold a Convention.
Delegates and the Convention:
1) Delegates must be current GSM members.
2) The number of delegates is determined by current GSM members but it must be a minimum of four.
3) In order for the convention to convene, a 90% quorum of delegates must be present.
4) A ¾ majority vote is needed for each amendment to pass during the convention.
1) 80% quorum of current GSM members is needed for ratifying.
2) A ¾ majority is needed to ratify each amendment.