At the beginning of each school year, the students of Sequoyah sign a “Student Parent Handbook Acknowledgment” which states they “have read the expectations, policies, and guidelines contained within the Sequoyah High School Student and Parent Handbook, and that [they] understand and agree to abide by those expectations, policies, and guidelines.” This is a tall order considering the Handbook is 46 pages long and the document is signed before the school year even starts. Most students don’t read the Handbook. For example, Mateo Rodriguez ‘25 says “very few [of his classmates] actually read [the Handbook].” So as a service to the community, let me present some of the rules you don’t know about and some of the community’s opinions about the Handbook.
The Handbook includes many rules and regulations as well as a guide to the Sequoyah Community, so in order to make sure this article is at least a little bit shorter than the Handbook, I will only be covering some of the interesting and lesser known policies to encourage you to read it.
The first of the spotlighted policies is the Clothing Policy. When interviewing students about the Clothing Policy, the most common response was, “There’s a clothing policy?” While there is nothing truly shocking about the policy, it does exist. The first part is fairly simple; it forbids “Clothing that displays symbols or reference to drugs, alcohol, obscenities, discrimination, violence or sexual innuendo.” This is pretty standard for a school setting. The next part of the policy is a little more interesting: “Any clothing that faculty or staff consider to be a distraction to the learning environment is not permitted.” When asked about this, Jason Mauff ’26 said “I think it’s a little weird to have the staff decide.” Staff having the power to choose what is appropriate or not does feel wonderful. However, Dean Adelman ‘26 brings up a good point: “if teachers abused it, it’d be bad. But I haven’t seen any teachers ever talk about [the policy].” The third and most surprising part of the school’s Clothing Policy is the policy on SIP trips: “Often on Social Innovation Program trips, students may be asked to wear attire appropriate for a professional setting.” This came as a surprise to all interviewees, and none of them had experienced or heard of such a request. After hearing the policy, Adelman remarked, “I don’t think anybody’s going to wear anything professional for SIP,” and Rodriguez said, “I think the SIP trip thing is a little odd…I think that you can be formal and still present yourself through your own personal clothing style, while still conducting a formal interview and coming off as professional.” As Sequoyah emphasizes individual identity, the formalwear requirement is a bit odd, and most people would probably not follow it. That brings us to a bigger question: how is the policy enforced? The Handbook states, “Students in violation of the clothing policy will be asked to change their clothing or will be sent home and given an unexcused absence. Repeated violations may result in disciplinary action.” So the next time you throw something on the minute you’re leaving, make sure you know what you’re wearing.
The second policy highlighted is the Google Apps Policy. This policy states, “Each student is issued a Google Apps for Education account through Sequoyah School. Students may use this account and related Google Apps for school-related work only. Students are required to only use Google’s Chrome web browser while on campus. Additionally, they must be logged into the browser using their school issued Google account.” This is the policy I have found the most controversial. Physics teacher Kevin Delin raised the question of privacy: does Google really protect the privacy of students properly? He describes Google on the whole as an ecosystem: “Chrome is an ecosystem and tech companies now have full ecosystems that once you get trapped inside they want to keep you there…where everything you type gets sent back to Google. And so it’s possible to have dossiers [file or history] built up on you.” This is worrying because one might not necessarily want all their information to be stored. Does this mean Google is horribly wrong and is always selling information? Sort of, but as Delin puts it, “You have to exist in the world and you have to use things, but you do have choices. It’s sort of like: do you decide to lock your car door when you leave or not? It’s not that hard to get into a car if you’re motivated, but people still lock their car doors with the idea that if it’s a little harder, people won’t do it. The same thing is true with the types of software that you use. Is anything perfect? No. Once you’re on the internet, you’re connected. But there are definitely places you can go where the risk is less or you can spread things out.” So while Google is not the absolute worst, it might be nice to have other options on the books so that students can make choices. This is even happening in the real world. Rodriguez recalls, “On the first day of school, I had a different browser installed and the tech guy at the time just came up to me and showed me how to get [school work] working on the other browser.” Sequoyah is willing to accommodate when asked, so keep on asking when it comes to your privacy.
The third of the spotlighted policies is Sports on Campus & Use of Grass Areas. This is most likely a part of the Handbook that more students are familiar with. This policy says, “With the exception of the use of the basketball hoop, Spike Ball nets and ping-pong table, students are not permitted to play sports games on the school campus unless given permission by the administration. This includes skateboarding, biking and other types of equipment. Students who are not sure whether or not a game, activity or use of equipment is appropriate, should ask the administration.” Although this limits the activity of students on campus, there are logical reasons behind the policy. Adelman says, “There isn’t much room to do any of that anyways…[The campus is] technically the church’s so I feel like if we mess up all their grass..that would be quite rude.” He adds that overall the policy “makes sense.” And this section of the Handbook is implemented regularly. However, there is a second part of this policy that says, “Students may be given permission to use Brookside Park during lunch and other special occasions.” No one I talked to seemed to have heard of this, and multiple people expressed interest. When asked if he would like to go to Brookside Park, Rodriguez said, “Definitely, I really enjoy going to Brookside…I think it’s great to just have a little bit of abstraction from school every once in a while.” While it is not entirely clear if this permission only applies to juniors and seniors who already have off-campus privileges, if you are interested, give it a try by asking for permission from the administration.
After learning about these policies wouldn’t it be interesting to find out about other policies? For instance, did you know the school has policies for Social Media, Peer Mediation, and Off-Campus Misconduct? If not, you should take a look at the Handbook available on The Family Portal.
Now that you have learned a little about the Handbook and what it has to offer, do you think it is effective? Well, the Merriam-Webster definition of “handbook” is a “book capable of being conveniently carried as a ready reference [or] a concise reference book covering a particular subject.” Is the Student Handbook a “concise reference book” to high school students? 46 pages is a lot to read for a teenager and can’t be considered concise, although it does cover a multitude of different topics. However, it is easily portable as a PDF and handy as a resource. Rodriguez affirms this reference idea, saying, “[The Handbook’s] not effective in having people know the rules. It’s effective as a reference to look at so it’s nice to have one place you can go where you can see all the rules and guidelines. If its goal is to inform people of the rules, it failed because few people actually look at it.” So instead of following my example and closely reading the Handbook it might be okay to just give it a good scan and make sure you know where it is for reference.