Crime and punishment: a century at KO

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From the Roaring Twenties to the 21st century, Kingswood Oxford has undergone many rule modifications to keep with the changing times. Let’s take a look.

Shortly after its founding in 1916, George Nicolson rooted many of KO’s rules in the English boarding school, Kingswood, that he attended in Bath as a student and teacher.

When examining the 1924 to 1925 Kingswood School Yearbook, the school claims that their intention is to make the student’s life easier.

Just like today, the school required students to obey the rules through a pledge. However, student in 1924 were not acknowledging the student handbook through filling out a Google form. They instead took a hand-written pledge to abide by the school rules.  

In general, rules were more specific in the past. The school highly enforced basic etiquette. “When you meet a member of the Faculty or another boy in the street, don’t pass with an embarrassed leer, but salute,” the handbook reads. “Don’t form the habit of talking to masters with your hands in your pockets.”

Senior Charlotte Cyr said this rule sounded very traditional. “I could not possibly imagine having that rule enforced nowadays,” she said.

All mentions of formality have been omitted over time from the school rules as the world has become more modernized.

Along the lines of the school eliminating rules, KO once allowed students to fight on campus. “If their honor cannot be satisfied otherwise,” the handbook reas, “[students] may fight with gloves in the gymnasium and in the presence of the Physical Director as referee.”

Punishments have also changed quite a bit. In 1924, students received a mark for neglecting decorum or the school routine and boys with four or more marks in one week would be sentenced to the list. Their punishment was silence during lunches for a week and detention. The blacklist was for students that were detained on more than one occasion, and they were banned from clubs or athletic teams for that semester. In order to get off the list and cancel “all evils” or punishments, students needed to earn a place on the honor roll.

The school’s policy for lateness and absences has evolved as well.

Tardiness was not determined by passes long ago or phone calls from parents, but roll call in class.

In order to undo an absence, the punishment was lengthy. “If you have been absent from School for at least one day, you must report with a written explanation to the Headmaster’s Office, and to the Physical Director before joining your classes,” the 1924 handbook reads.

The handbook also states that vacation and sickness is not a valid excuse to miss class. “You can do nothing worse than to sacrifice your classes and your teachers to your own pleasure,” the handbook reads.

Sophomore Maddie Thiessen said she agreed in a sense. “If you’re sick you shouldn’t be here, because you’ll get others sick, but I understand that [rule] for vacation“ she said.

Following the brutal years of World War II, just as the world trend was to become more democratic, so did Kingswood.

In the 1947 to 1948 Kingswood School Yearbook, the school states that “a boy is innocent until he has been proved to be guilty” and “that a boy who honestly feels that he has been penalized unfairly has  the right to appeal to the Student Council or the Headmaster.”

Today, rules have been updated to change with the addition of cell phones and the notion of enforcing a dress code that is conducive to learning but not overly formal. Today, these old rules would not work well, and we are lucky for some change.