by the Derech Eretz Council
What is the Derech Eretz Council? First of all, we should define Derech Eretz. Derech Eretz / דרך ארץ is a Hebrew phrase which literally means “the way of the land.” This refers to the ethics and morals by which we live our lives. The Derech Eretz Council is a student-run group, with Rabbi Judd Levingston, Rabbi Dan Rosenberg, Mrs. Lindsay Siney, and Mr. Jeffrey Lieberman. as faculty advisors, who work together to ensure that the Barrack community embodies Derech Eretz, and, in particular, the school’s four Derech Eretz values of Honor (Kavod / כבוד), Courage (Ometz Lev / אומץ לב), Kindness (Hesed / חסד), and Community (Kehillah / קהילה).
We do this in various ways. Every year, towards the beginning of the first trimester, we organize and lead the Derech Eretz assembly, where we come together as a school to affirm our commitment to these values. During the winter and spring, we design activities and develop case studies to help further an understanding of the principles that guide our community. Last year, for example, the Derech Eretz Council was involved in planning the Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) Conference and a middle school program called the Week of Derech Eretz. Both your teachers and student members of the Council participated in social tolerance training with the National SEED (Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity) Project.
Sometimes, when students make errors in judgment, the high school members of the Council are convened to hear their case and recommend a course of action to the administration. The consequences that we suggest are oriented around the principle of restorative justice; rather than taking a punitive stance, we strive to help you understand your mistake, how you can do better next time, and ways the community can support you.
Derech Eretz Council members abide by a strict pledge of confidentiality. So, during a hearing, you are free to express yourself and be honest – we will never share anything that you or anyone else shares behind closed doors. You should know, also, that teachers and administrators are not the only people who can ask the Council for a hearing. In fact, under the Derech Eretz Council Constitution, every student has the right to voice their perspective before the Council. Whether you believe that a teacher or administrator decided upon an unfair consequence, are concerned about your relationship with a classmate, or saw something else about which you’d like to speak up, you can request that your fellow students on the Council consider your viewpoint in a hearing. If you want to voice a concern but do not think that a formal hearing is needed, you can talk to your grade or division Council representatives. In ninth grade, you choose your representatives for the remainder of high school through a blind ballot.
If you can only remember a little bit about the Derech Eretz Council, there are two things that are perhaps the most important. First, if you find yourself in a situation where disciplinary action is required, you always have the ability to request an audience before your peers. Second, to be a member of the Barrack community means committing to uphold our Derech Eretz values as the pillars of the school.
To learn more about what Derech Eretz means at Barrack, visit https://www.jbha.org/about-us/derech-eretz-values.