By: Ciara McAuliffe — Correspondent
Sharon’s School Council is responsible for the Sharon High School Student Handbook and is supposed to present a new one annually, although that process hasn’t happened in years.
The current 90-page handbook meets the eyes of few students. Last updated in 2014, the handbook opens with a greeting from former Sharon High School principal Dr. Jose Libano. Over the past year, members of a subcommittee within Sharon’s School Council created an updated, user-friendly document for students. They condensed the 90 pages down to one.
Teachers Ms. Hannah Cohen, Mr. Timothy Mgee, Ms. Stacy Newman and Ms. Emily Garr, as well as junior Grace Hu and sophomore Alisha Meta, two of the four SHS School Council student representatives, formed a subcommittee within the school council to address and alleviate issues presented by the handbook.
To Cohen, inaccessibility was a key area of concern. “Most students I’ve talked to have never read it, and when they look at it, they’re like me––their eyes glaze over. It’s really hard to tell what you can and cannot do,” said Cohen.
“So we took some of the values that are in there, and some ideas of what we want things to look like, and we made a one-pager that is just a simple––here are the rules we want everyone to know, and here’s how to get support,” added Cohen.
A separate one-pager for parental guardians, which provides important information about when, where, and how to seek help for the students they take care of was also created.
In 2019, an equity audit was presented to the school committee that reflected a school culture in need of change. “When we’ve looked at some of the discipline data, it’s pretty clear that certain students are facing a different kind of discipline from other students,” said Cohen.
“That sends a message about who is accepted and who is supported at Sharon High, and we need to make sure that the message is: we are supporting all students’ success. Because right now, from what we’ve seen from that audit, and from talking to students, students are not all feeling supported,” added Cohen.
Hu and Meta took it upon themselves to create a students’ rights section. “It’s a list of important rights that all SHS students should be entitled to––respect, support, and confidentiality. Most school handbooks focus heavily on discipline guidelines, but we thought it would set a more encouraging tone if we made a section reminding students that as members of the SHS community, they are entitled to having their needs met and respected,” said Hu.
The one-page summaries were approved by Sharon School Committee on September 22. “They should be on the school website soon,” said Cohen.