St. John’s Military School Keeps Cadets Safe While Teaching Personal Accountability
Salina, KS. October 14, 2016— St. John’s Military School wants the cadets living on its campus to feel at home. With an understanding that cadets are away from their families, the goal of the school is to provide an environment where cadets feel safe and know that they are surrounded by faculty, staff, and fellow cadets who care about their well-being. To create this protective environment, St. John’s takes a multi-pronged approach to safety and security that includes facility security systems, routine safety and health screenings, mentoring programs, and most importantly, a commitment to enabling the formation of a brotherhood that safeguards its own.
According to Capt. Brian Bell, Admissions Dean at St. John’s, the school’s foundation of safety is laid for cadets on the first day that they enter campus.
“Each new cadet meets with the commandant’s secretary on his first day and receives a copy of the Cadet Handbook,” said Bell. “We explain to each and every cadet on day one what behaviors and actions are not accepted on our campus, and what disciplinary measures will follow if rules are broken.”
St. John’s makes the protection of its students, and their commitment to the expectations stated in the Cadet Handbook, a top priority. School leaders monitor the conduct of its cadets to ensure compliance with expected behaviors through a variety of infrastructure systems and routine procedures.
“We have nine cameras positioned around the common areas of our campus so that we can investigate reported breaches of conduct,” said Maj. George Stelljes, Commandant of Cadets at St. John’s. “We also conduct weekly health and wellness inspections. If we observe a bruise on a cadet, we find out where it came from to make sure the explanation does not involve an incident with another cadet. Our laundry maintenance staff even report any contraband found in the cadets’ pockets or possible blood on their clothing. We take every measure possible to uncover behaviors that could put our cadets in harm’s way. Safety is our absolute highest priority.”
Like many schools across the country, St. John’s has put additional measures in place to safeguard its cadets against bullying.
“Each cadet must sign an anti-hazing policy,” said Bell. “The policy outlines what is and is not considered bullying and hazing, and most importantly it empowers our young men to report any issues they witness or experience. We know that hazing exists when discipline goes well beyond normal bounds, and we make it explicitly clear to our cadets that such unacceptable attempts at authority will not be tolerated.”
The faculty and staff at St. John’s know that while every effort is made to dissuade conduct issues, the reality of teenage behavior is that rule infractions will occur. St. John’s treats any breach of conduct as an opportunity to reinforce to its cadets the importance of personal accountability.
“If any conduct breaches are observed or reported we complete an investigation,” said Bell. “We hear both sides of the story, speak to witnesses, and then bring all the parties involved in for mediation. All conduct reports are reviewed by our senior military advisor. If necessary, the cadet’s parents are notified as well.”
According to Bell, the faculty and staff use the Cadet Handbook as the foundation for determining disciplinary measures while taking into consideration any mitigating circumstances.
“We try to be fair about the classification of the conduct report and the adjudication so it’s not just arbitrary,” said Bell. “It can’t be that way, because life is not that way. Although we don’t try to give cadets alibis for their behavior, we understand that sometimes there are mitigating circumstances. We understanding that these are still kids. They wear uniforms and look like soldiers but they’re not soldiers, they’re kids. They don’t yet have the personal skills and patience that would normally keep someone from a conflict with someone else. That’s part of the reason why they’re here, to learn those skills and the mechanisms needed to deal with the conflicts in positive ways.”
According to Sgt. Ricky Jordan, Deputy Commandant at St. John’s, cadets are given as many avenues as possible to report concerns and seek support.
“We’ve placed boxes around campus where cadets can anonymously report concerns,” said Jordan. “We have the Mom’s and Dad’s Club, which pairs cadets with on campus adult mentor. We encourage new boys to write letters home every week. We issue cell phones to older cadets to allow them to call home as well. Most importantly, we reinforce to the cadets that we have an open door policy at the highest levels of our leadership. We encourage our cadets to meet with myself, or Maj. Stelljes, or our president and headmaster at any time to discuss any problems they may have, and they do.
According to Bell, one of the most effective safety measures that exists on campus exists outside of the school’s formal procedures and programs.
“The importance that we place on teaching our cadets accountability sets St. John’s apart,” said Bell. “Our older cadets understand that they are accountable for the younger cadets in their company. It’s actually our older cadets that pick up on potential issues first because they notice when their brothers are down. Our squad leaders will report concerns that they have about their fellow cadets. It’s the emphasis that we place on accountability that makes these older cadets feel like big brothers. It’s not about reporting wrong doing to them. They truly feel accountable for others.”
According to Bell, it is the fundamental ideology of military school that fosters this level of maturity and responsibility.
“Some people have a misperception that military school is about developing soldiers, but it’s not,” explained Bell. “It’s about teaching young men to have a better understanding of how they work within a larger group. It’s about working with others to overcome obstacles and succeed as a whole. It’s that sense of being part of a greater purpose, and being a leader that makes our cadets attentive to the needs of others. It’s the desire for their brothers to succeed that makes our cadets our first line of defense against conflict and helps us to keep them all safe in return.”