Character Spotlight: RCDS Ethics Project

Just after the conclusion of the school year, 14 Upper School students gathered for the fourth annual RCDS Ethics Project, a retreat developed by an interdisciplinary faculty collaboration aimed at expanding students' knowledge and analytical skills around matters pertaining to ethical awareness and active, purpose-driven engagement. This year's retreat examined ethics and the law, and participating students worked together to develop the ability to navigate complex ethical dilemmas through creating and practicing models for effective decision making. Students practiced and exemplified the character traits and analytical skills identified in the RCDS Portrait of a Graduate as holistic thinkers, ethical decision makers, skilled collaborators, and active community members.

Grade 11 Dean and Upper School English Teacher Jenny Heath shared the following recap of the project:

The retreat this year was great! The topic was ethics and the law. We had a group of 14 rising 10th, 11th, and 12th graders, who were energetic, bright, and intellectually curious. They dove headlong into a variety of complex issues including: the use of genetic genealogy in crime investigation and the resulting privacy issues; mass incarceration and various causes such as minimum sentencing laws; the causes and effects of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994; and ethical challenges involving free speech and privacy as they relate to social media platforms and regulation. Over the course of our four days together, the students engaged in debates, watched and listened to a range of multimedia sources, spoke with a variety of guest speakers, and wrote a proposal to the U.S. administration based on their generative conversations. The faculty members involved were Charles Sliter (Upper School Humanities Teacher), Sarah Danziger (Classics Department Chair and Upper School Latin Teacher), and me. From a faculty perspective, one of the things I love about the program is being able to work with colleagues in other departments to create an interdisciplinary curriculum.

Our guest speakers were:

Awilda Alvarado P'20
A probation officer in Westchester County for over 30 years, Aida currently works with the Felony Drug Diversion Court.

Kyle Rawlins
As co-founder of Designing Justice + Designing Spaces, a nonprofit architecture firm that designs and develops "buildings, spaces, and tools to attack the root causes of mass incarceration," Kyle spoke to us just after visiting a decommissioned prison in Texas that his firm is going to lease and turn into a community center that provides a multitude of services including job training for formerly incarcerated people.

Patrick Early, RCDS Security
A member of the NYPD throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Patrick spoke about police training and oversight, ethical codes followed by police, and tricky ethical issues that he observed and encountered while on the force.

Erin Delaney
A law professor at Northwestern University's Pritzker Law School and a former clerk for the U.S. Supreme Court, Erin touched on the intricate legal aspects of incarceration.

Participating Faculty

Sarah Danziger
Department Chair, Classics
Latin Teacher, Upper School

Jenny Heath
Dean, Grade 11
English Teacher, Upper School

Charles Sliter
Humanities Teacher, Upper School