School Rules: Strictly by the Book

Kelli Wegner is changing students’ lives at Thornapple Kellogg schools.

Why? Because she has the power to take their cell phones away, thanks to the rules she’s been putting in the student handbook.

Wegner gets notes from teachers and school staff throughout the year that she puts in a three-inch folder containing everything one would want to know about the school rules. This year, about 300 lines in the 42-page book were changed. 

For most, actually probably nearly everybody, this work would not be on their “fun things to do” list, but Wegner finds the whole process a bit exciting. Honest.

Suggestions from teachers and staff throughout the year about handbook changes and information bulge from Kim Wegner’s file

“I know this may sound odd, but it’s amazing once it is complete,” she said. “Once it gets going, it’s fun.”

She admits some might question her enthusiasm. “I know, it’s weird,” Wegner says with a real smile.

One of the biggest issues the handbook sets out rules for is the use of cell phones. The school has a cell phone policy that involves each classroom having a sign with red, green and yellow circles detailing when cell phones can be used. For example, if it’s red, phones have to be silenced.

The signs are simple, and they’re working. Wegner says before they were used, more than 400 students surrendered phones to the office. So far this year, she’s only had 34.

There’s a Conference for That

Wegner, who is the high school assistant principal, and Steve Guikema, middle school dean of students, share the responsibility for putting the book together. They attend the Michigan Association of Secondary School Principals Handbook conference every April in Lansing to learn about new legal requirements and how to build the perfect book.

A subject that’s stressed at the conference is being very cautious of school surroundings in terms of safety, Wenger said. Many schools have responded to this by adding better security.

“This is a small portion of my job, but factors into what I do on a daily basis — student discipline,” she said. “Students need to know the consequences of their actions and that they can be bigger than they think.”

She starts compiling the book with staff suggestions in the summer and also adds conference legal information. ​After she’s finished, the handbook goes to a group of teachers to review, and then to staff and students for distribution.

“Next year should not be as bad, considering we have made major changes this year,” she says. The changes involve a new Positive Behavior Support System. “It is a full-time job in the summer if you are changing lots of content in the handbook.”

If you’re looking for something to read, you can find the student handbook online. The school also offers hard-copy versions.

CONNECT

Thornapple Kellogg High School Student Handbook

Michigan Department of Education handbook guide

Linda Odette
Linda Odette is a freelance writer and editor with more than 30 years of experience in journalism. She’s worked primarily as an editor in feature departments at newspapers in West Michigan, including the Grand Rapids Press, the Muskegon Chronicle and the Holland Sentinel. She lives in East Grand Rapids near the Eastown edge, has a teenage son and a daughter in college. Read Linda's full bio

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