Fundamental Rules

General

The various forms of dialogue that we enter into as a part of our everyday existence while at Taft are key ways that we learn and grow.  These dialogues take place in the classrooms, hallways, dorms, co-curricular spaces, and any place that two or more Tafties congregate.  These dialogues happen in the words we speak to each other, the music we listen to, and the decorations that adorn our persons and our individual and collective spaces.  Because of the diversity of experience, background, and perspective inherent to the Taft community, we will not always agree with one another and indeed we shouldn’t.  It is in the moments where we are confronted with new and divergent thoughts that we expand our world view the most.  And while these conversations should always be civil and in the spirit of learning, they may even be difficult and at times cause offense.  We embrace these challenging moments as key to the edification of individuals and the broader community.  We also affirm the humanity of all members of the Taft community and any dialogue that calls an individual’s humanity into question violates our communal norms and will not be allowed on campus.  All members of the Taft community must feel as though they can be their full selves on campus and language that demeans or degrades Tafties based on the immutable features of their being has no place in our community no matter where else it might be taking place.  To quote James Baldwin, “We can disagree and still love each other unless your disagreement is rooted in my oppression and denial of my humanity and right to exist” 

Students shall always act honestly and with consideration for others. Conduct that violates the law or reflects badly upon the school, whether committed in school or elsewhere, and whether committed while school is in session or not, may be cause for discipline, including dismissal.

A student’s standing at Taft is determined on the basis of scholarship, effort, and conduct. Failure to maintain a good standing in any one of these areas may result in dismissal and/ or the denial of a diploma. Students and parents should know that some conduct may also violate state and/or federal laws and, in some instances, Taft will report such conduct to legal authorities as required by law.

All students are expected to cooperate fully in any school investigation. A student may not make a visual or audio recording of any Taft School faculty or staff member without such faculty or staff member’s prior consent.

Certain rules, which the school considers particularly important for the well-being of the individual and the community, are grouped together as the Fundamental Rules of the school. Violation of any of them may be considered as grounds for dismissal.

Upon reaching the age of adulthood, any student who remains enrolled at Taft agrees and understands that in choosing to remain at the School, he/she is agreeing to the terms of enrollment and agrees to abide by the Fundamental Rules of the School and such other terms of the Taft Student Handbook.

Both parents and students should understand that while students are away on weekends, their conduct and welfare is the primary responsibility of their host, not of the school, but students who take weekends to nearby homes must not be in violation of Taft rules if they return to the school or to the Watertown area during the weekend. Students who take weekends to homes in the immediate Watertown area must not be in violation of Taft rules when leaving the homes of their host.

When students leave Taft to participate in off-campus programs, whether it be short trips, college visits, or semester or yearlong programs, they do so with the school’s recommendation and thus serve as representatives of Taft. These students are expected to act in a manner consistent with the guiding principles and expectations of the Taft community. If a student does not act accordingly, the school will respond appropriately to the situation.

The school reserves the right to search student rooms and belongings for evidence of violation of school rules.

General Conduct

Students are expected to meet their daily commitments at the school and are also expected to uphold the standards of the community. Students who repeatedly reach Disciplinary Report (see page 26) or whose general conduct is deemed unsatisfactory will not be allowed to remain at Taft.

Alcohol and Drugs

No student may use, possess, or attempt to purchase or sell dangerous or illegal drugs, hallucinogens, drug paraphernalia, or alcohol at school. Vaporizers, including all vape devices, e-cigarette systems and any evolving derivatives, constitute drug paraphernalia.

Boarding students, and day students in the company of boarding students, may not violate any aspect of the Alcohol/Drug Rule in the general neighborhood of school, including Watertown and nearby towns. In addition, day students’ use of alcohol and drugs is subject to the general prohibition against violation of the law and conduct reflecting badly upon the school while away from Taft.

The dean of students or his designee may at his discretion test students for drug and alcohol use. It is a condition of a student’s enrollment at Taft that parents/guardians and students authorize such drug or alcohol testing. Any student who refuses to be tested in such situation will be subject to discipline as determined at the discretion of the head of school. The costs associated with drug and alcohol tests will be billed to the student’s parents or guardians.

Arrival at school with evidence of use of such drugs or alcohol is a violation of this rule, whether by boarding students following a permission, weekend or vacation, or by day students at any time.

Use of alcohol on day permissions, even in the company of parents, is a violation of this rule.

Use of alcohol or illegal drugs while on a college visit is a violation of this rule.

Prescription drugs must be kept in the Health Center. Students found possessing prescription drugs without specific permission from a nurse at the Health Center are in violation of the Alcohol/Drug Rule.

All students aware that the Alcohol/Drug Rule is being broken in their presence and who do not make an immediate attempt to leave the vicinity are in violation of the rule. Questions as to whether a student was so aware will be resolved by a committee composed of the head of school, the dean of students, and the student’s class dean and faculty advisor.

Students are not permitted to drink nonalcoholic beer at school.

Students who violate the Alcohol/Drug Rule will be required to undergo a formal assessment by the school counselors and agree to participate in ongoing work with those counselors if recommended. Monitors, dormitory monitors, or class committee members who violate the Alcohol/Drug Rule will, in almost all circumstances, be asked to resign from their positions of leadership.

All CBD products must be brought to the health center for approval by the school doctor or health staff.

Sexual Intimacy

The school does not condone students’ sexual activity while on campus. Adolescence is a time of personal growth that includes a developing sense of individual sexuality. Taft students are responsible for their behavior as they navigate the rights and responsibilities of emerging sexual identity. Students need clear boundaries and an understanding of potential consequences to aid in their decision making. Any student found being sexually intimate with another person must speak with a Taft faculty member about the incident. The School expects students in same sex relationships to observe the same expectations as everyone else. Students may speak with a faculty member of their choosing including advisor, class dean, coach, dorm parent, school doctor, school counselor, dean of students, or any other faculty member. The faculty member and student will also contact the student’s parents to inform them of the incident.

If student(s) violate a school rule while being sexually intimate, the student(s) may be subject to disciplinary action. Some sexually intimate behaviors may also violate state laws despite the consent of both parties. Sexual contact with anyone three (3) years or older when the other person is 13, 14 or 15 years of age is against Connecticut law and the school will be required to report such acts to the Department of Children and Families and/or law enforcement.

Statement on Consent

Consent is defined as an affirmative, unambiguous, informed, and voluntary agreement to engage in specific sexual activity. Consent may be revoked at any time by either party. Consent cannot be given by an individual who is asleep or otherwise mentally or physically incapacitated.

Sexual Misconduct

Sexual misconduct encompasses a range of behavior used to obtain sexual gratification against another’s will or at the expense of another. Sexual misconduct includes sexual harassment, sexual violence/assault, stalking (including cyberstalking), or any conduct of a sexual nature that is without consent, or has the purpose or effect of threatening, intimidating, or coercing the person against whom such conduct is directed. Making photographs, video, or other visual or auditory recordings of a sexual nature of another person without consent constitutes sexual misconduct, even if the activity documented was consensual. Similarly, sharing such recordings or other sexually harassing electronic communications without consent is a form of sexual misconduct.

It is always inappropriate for a faculty member or employee of Taft to engage in any sexual activity with a student, regardless of the student’s age. Taft faculty and employees who violate this policy will be subject to discipline, including termination and being barred from campus. The school also will report the conduct to the Connecticut Department of Children and Families (“DCF”) and/or law enforcement as required by law.

Sexual misconduct is incompatible with the standards and ideals of our community and will not be tolerated. All members of our community are protected from sexual misconduct, and sexual misconduct is prohibited regardless of the sex of any party involved. Sexual misconduct is a violation of a Fundamental Rule at Taft and may result in suspension or dismissal from the school.

Sexual misconduct may also be against the law and require the school to report the conduct to legal authorities, including law enforcement and/or DCF when appropriate.

Any student who believes they have been the victim of sexual misconduct or who is concerned about such behavior by others should seek help immediately from a trusted adult, such as a parent/guardian, a classroom teacher, an advisor, a school counselor, a class dean, the dean of student, the school doctor, or the head of school. Students also may report sexual misconduct directly to the Watertown Police Department at 860-945-5200. Students should call 911 if they, or another, need immediate police and/or medical attention. Procedures for reporting, investigating and resolving cases of sexual misconduct can be found on the school website at www.taftschool.org/student-handbook.

The school will treat all reports of sexual misconduct seriously, with the well-being and safety of its students as the main priority. The school, in most instances, will notify parents of any sexual misconduct allegations involving their child and also will comply with any laws requiring them to report the alleged sexual misconduct to law enforcement and/or DCF. The school may conduct its own investigation regarding the alleged misconduct to ensure the safety and security of the entire community and to determine whether disciplinary action is warranted. Taft’s investigation will be independent of any investigation being conducted by law enforcement and/or DCF, but the school will attempt to coordinate with law enforcement and DCF in an effort not to interfere with their investigations. Matters of sexual misconduct will be handled at the discretion of the Head of School, in consultation with other people the Head of School deems relevant, including the involved parties. The Head of School has the discretion to exclude violation of other school rules which occurred during the alleged misconduct. The Head of School may take interim measures to ensure the safety and health of those involved and/or the Taft community, including, but not limited to, changing classes or rooming assignments, or placing student(s) on leave until the case is resolved. Disciplinary responses will be determined at the discretion of the Head of School and are independent of any law enforcement or DCF findings.

All reports of sexual misconduct will be kept confidential to the greatest extent possible. Any student or adult member of the Taft community who reports an incident of sexual misconduct must understand that, for a comprehensive solution to be reached, certain information must be shared with individuals, whether school employees or students, who are involved in and/or necessary to the investigation.

The school will support and protect any individual who raises an allegation of sexual misconduct. Retaliation against someone making a complaint about sexual misconduct is unacceptable and will be subject to a disciplinary response if found by the head of school or his designee to be a valid claim of retaliation. Any disciplinary response will be determined at the discretion of the head of school and may include possible dismissal for a student or the termination of employment.

Tobacco and Other Tobacco Products

Students are prohibited from using or possessing tobacco products.

In response to a first offense, a student will be required to meet with the dean of students, call their parents and meet with the school doctor. A letter will be sent home to document the incident and response.

In response to a second offense, a student will be required to meet again with the dean of students, and the student will be required to meet with the school counselor to discuss the need for ongoing treatment. Students found in violation of the tobacco rule a second time will be required to serve a one-day stayover.

If a student is found in violation of the tobacco rule more than two times, the dean of students will hold a conference with the student, the parents, the class dean, the advisor and a school counselor to determine the appropriate course of action.

Students found smoking within any of the school buildings will also be referred to the dean of students as a violation of the school’s Fundamental Rule with regard to creating a fire hazard.

Motor Vehicles

Boarding students are forbidden to have automobiles or other motor vehicles in Watertown or the vicinity. Students may ride in or drive motor vehicles only when operated by or under the direction of a person or service approved by their parent or guardian on the Automobile

Permission Form, which must be on file in the Office of the Dean of Students. This rule applies to all travel to and from destinations on weekends and permissions, and arrival and departure for vacations. Hitchhiking is not permitted. Students who wish to ride with anyone under 21 years of age, other than members of their family specifically approved as above, must consult the Dean’s Office well in advance regarding requirements before the school can grant such permission.

Written permission from the parents of the student and the parents of the driver, and proof of the driver’s liability coverage, must be submitted to the Dean’s Office. Driving permissions can never be accepted over the telephone.

Day students who have legitimate driver’s licenses may drive to school. They may drive other students if the following conditions are met: (1) written permission from both the driver’s and the rider’s parents are on file in the Dean’s Office; (2) written proof of the driver’s liability insurance

is on file in the Dean’s Office; (3) the driver has had a valid license for at least one full year and meets and complies with the driving requirements of his/her state of license. Day students who have not met the above requirements are not permitted to ride in a motor vehicle to and from school or to and from school functions held either at Taft or some other school unless accompanied by a parent, a faculty member, or an adult approved by name.

Uber and other similar ride sharing services operate in the Watertown area, however, please note that Uber’s “Use of Services” explains, “The Service is not available for use by persons under the age of 18. You may not authorize third parties to use your account, and you may not allow persons under the age of 18 to receive transportation or logistics services from Third Party Providers unless they are accompanied by you.” Therefore, third party permission from parents does not allow students under the age of 18 to ride Uber, or other similar ride sharing services with similar restrictions.

Boarding students on a weekend permission may not drive cars to Watertown, Waterbury, other nearby towns, or the general neighborhood of the school at any time during the weekend or at the conclusion of the weekend unless special permission is obtained from the Dean’s Office well in advance.

Permissions

Students are not allowed to leave school property after the times specified on pages 23–24 without permission and are not allowed outside the school buildings after check-in until after 6:00 a.m. the next day. Although the Charles Phelps Taft (CPT) and Horace Dutton Taft

(HDT), Vogelstein and ISP dormitories are all in the main building, they are treated as separate dormitories. Thus, when a student from HDT is found in CPT after check-in—or vice versa— that student will be considered in violation of the Permissions Rule. Day students must be off the campus by check-in and may not return until 7:00 a.m.

Whenever a student leaves campus, she/he is required to sign out with the Dean’s Office.

Boarding students may not go out of Watertown (approximately a 3 mile radius around campus) without permission granted in advance. Filling out a weekend permission with the intent to deceive or going to an unapproved destination is a violation of the Permissions Rule. See pages 22–23 for sign-out procedures.

Every time a student signs out, whether from the Dean’s Office or from the dormitory—during study hall, for example—she/he is expected to accurately and honestly indicate the destination.

Unauthorized use of a physical space at the school is a violation of the Permissions Rule.

Fire Hazards

Creating a fire hazard is a violation of a Fundamental School Rule. Examples of such actions include, but are not limited to, irresponsible or unauthorized use of fire extinguishers, matches, lighters, candles, cooking appliances, incense or other combustibles in or around a school building, use or possession of fireworks and tampering with alarms or fire equipment. Phoning in a false alarm is also a violation of this rule. More details regarding fire and safety regulations are provided on pages 41–42.

Smoking in any of the school buildings is a violation of the Fire Hazard Rule.

Firearms and Weapons

This rule prohibits the possession or use of firearms and other weapons. This includes, but is not limited to, firearms, BB guns, pellet guns of any kind, paint guns, martial arts weapons, crossbows, knives with blades longer than 3 inches, and any other object that is designed, or intended to be used primarily as a weapon.

Keys and Fobs

Students found using or in possession of school keys or fobs that were not legally issued to them, as well as students found in unauthorized areas of the school, are in violation of this rule.

Reckless Endangerment

Students may not engage in reckless acts that expose others or themselves to an obvious risk of serious injury. For instance, going out on the roofs of the school buildings is a violation of this rule.

General Conduct

Students are expected to meet their daily commitments at the school and are also expected to uphold the standards of the community. Students who repeatedly reach Disciplinary Report or whose general conduct is deemed unsatisfactory will not be allowed to remain at Taft.

Acceptable, Appropriate Use of the Taft Network

It is the general policy of the Taft School that computers and network services are to be used in a responsible, efficient, ethical, and legal manner in accordance with the mission of the school. Users of the Taft network acknowledge their understanding of the general policy and guidelines as a condition of using the network. All users are responsible for adhering to these Taft policies and procedures for network use. Any communication or action that would be considered inappropriate in any other setting is equally inappropriate on the computer, computer network, and/or the Internet. Users should have no expectation of privacy as the school has the right, and occasionally, the responsibility, to monitor usage and activity.

Use of the network is a privilege, not a right. Failure to act in accordance with the Acceptable Use Policy as described below and published administrative procedures may result in a loss of network access, disciplinary action, and/or criminal penalties under applicable state and federal law. Information on observed or reported violations will be turned over to the Dean’s Office for disposition, and possibly law enforcement if deemed necessary by the school or as required by law.

Acceptable use of the network includes activities that support learning, teaching, and communication. Students and faculty are encouraged to explore and develop new ways of using technology to support Taft teaching and learning objectives.

Unacceptable Use of the Network Includes, But Is Not Limited To:

  • Using network credentials that belong to someone else.
  • Violating the rights to privacy of students, employees of the Taft School, or others outside of Taft.
  • Using the network to harass or bully another individual or individuals.
  • Using profane or obscene language that may be offensive to another user.
  • Plagiarism and/or copying materials in violation of copyright law.
  • Using the network for financial gain or for any commercial or illegal activity.
  • Acting in a manner that degrades or disrupts system performance or unauthorized entry to and/or destruction of computer systems and files.
  • Excessive bandwidth usage that impacts the network or Internet performance of others.
  • Reposting personal communications without the author’s prior consent.
  • Accessing, downloading, storing, or printing files or messages that are illegal, obscene, or that offend or degrade another.
  • Using bittorrent or other peer-2-peer methods as a means to unlawfully download copyrighted material such as movies, music, games, programs, etc.
  • The use of any technology or device to disable, bypass, or otherwise attempt to circumvent Taft’s access policies, firewall systems or other access points. This would include personal routers, Internet Connection Sharing, Proxies, Anonymizers, or other devices and methods.

The Taft School makes no express or implied warranty for the Internet access it provides or the resources available through the use of our network. We cannot completely eliminate access to information that is offensive or illegal and residing on networks outside of the Taft School campus. Taft does not guarantee the availability of access to the Internet and will not be responsible for any information that may be lost, damaged, or unavailable due to technical and/or other difficulties.

Social Media Policy

All Taft social media accounts (including accounts used to promote Taft athletic teams, clubs, etc.) must be associated with a Taft email address. All Taft social media account holders are required to send their usernames and passwords to the Director of Communications.

Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) AKA Drone Campus Policy

Any use of a UAS from or over the campus, or inside a campus building, is prohibited.