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Legacy of Trust

When Brian Killough ’87 was a senior, he had the fortune of helping create a particular legacy at Providence Day, one that would endure and become a distinguishing trait of the school.

“I was part of the preliminary group of students to envision the Honor Code and figure out how it would work,” he said.

A true grassroots endeavor in 1987, the students discussed with then-Head of School Eugene Bratek their desire to establish a code to reflect the way students are expected to behave — that they may not lie, cheat or steal.

“It was conceived as a way to have students show responsibility, to be monitored by and accountable to our peers,” said Killough.

“We considered ourselves a community and a family, not just a group of kids going to school,” he said. “It was a way to police ourselves and keep us out of trouble … and show honor by doing our own work.”

After a yearlong study of existing honor codes at comparable schools, the Honor Code and Honor Council were established by Upper School students in spring of 1988.

In the fall of 1989, the Student Government Association inaugurated a new Honor Code and Council for the student body. The SGA undertook the task of drafting the guidelines to record and enforce their set of values, and how council members — students and faculty — would be selected.

In the mid-1990s, the Middle School adopted the Honor Code and its own Honor Council, which is comprised of faculty members. “Our Honor Code reinforces our commitment to the honesty and integrity of each Middle School student,” said Middle School Head Sam Caudill.
“They understand its purpose and respect the role it has in our school community.”

Part of PDS’s mission is to inspire in its students a commitment to personal integrity. The Upper and Middle School Student-Parent Handbooks state that students are evaluated on the basis of their own accomplishments, and they must trust that all other students are evaluated likewise.

“To assure such knowledge and trust, an Honor Code helps create an atmosphere of optimum learning and trust, not one of suspicion,” the handbooks read.

Acknowledging that the Honor Code is an ideal and that humans are not perfect, the faculty and administration endeavor to teach students to think before they act and to take responsibility for their actions.

As such, Upper Schoolers are required to sign two statements at the beginning of each new school year — an Honor Pledge and a Technology Pledge — in which they promise to be honest and true on all written work and with using technology. The book containing their Honor Pledges is displayed in a case in the lobby of Dickson-Hemby Technology Center.

Middle Schoolers write and sign an Honor Pledge on all tests throughout the year.

“Signing the pledge is a reminder to students that their names are on there. It makes them think and to do the right thing,” said Killough.

If/when a student is determined to be in violation of the Honor Code, the Honor Council investigates with the aim to help the student who has made a mistake to learn from those experiences while also supporting the integrity of PDS. 

The council strives to recommend sanctions that will genuinely help and support the student, not merely to punish him or her.

The entire Honor Code philosophy helps to shape better students, said Killough’s son, 8th-grader Jake.

“The code teaches us throughout our years at PDS to be honest and to do our work using our own knowledge,” he said. “Not only does it make us better students in terms of learning, but it also makes a more honest and inviting environment at school, period.”

Jake wasn’t surprised to learn his father had a hand in creating the Honor Code.

“He is the kind of person who goes out of his way to better others and not just himself,” said Jake. “I am sure he was thinking of other people when he helped introduced it.”

Killough is proud that his son and soon his daughter, 4-grader Hannah, get to experience an educational environment that puts such emphasis on student responsibility and honor.

“Today, it’s great to see book bags lying unattended everywhere,” he said. “That’s trust.”

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