Giving Anonymity for Substance Control: The Dilemma of the Amnesty Policy

Katelyn Kim '25, Staff Writer

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, amnesty is a concept that is “a fixed period of time during which people are not punished for committing a particular crime.” When the term amnesty is used at Loomis Chaffee, it is a specific reference to a period in which students inside a dorm can remove all contraband from their respective rooms without the liability of disciplinary action for doing so. Although some question whether the school is becoming negligent over the use of contraband, the current amnesty policy establishes a trusting relationship between the school and the student. It allows for an anonymous second chance while also enlightening students on the consequences of using and/or storing contraband.

Dorms subject to amnesty can be selected either randomly or due to increased suspicion. If any contraband is found during random room searches after the amnesty period, the student will face serious disciplinary action. 

The amnesty policy was only recently adopted by the Loomis community. In the 2013-2014 school year, Loomis did not present any policy or rule that granted students similar privileges to the amnesty program today in their respective dorms. Students were to comply with the school rules of strictly having no contraband materials in their rooms. Even though students prior to 2014 were not allowed to anonymously remove their contrabands before formal room searches, they were given the same punishment as current Loomis students who are found with contraband after the amnesty period.

After nearly 10 years, LC’s amnesty program still holds true to our fundamental values and principles. Additionally, the pressing question of balance between preserving student rights and creating a safe and healthy environment is given a well-rounded answer. By creating amnesty, Loomis prioritizes student health and safety. Moreover, the policy allows students a second chance and enables them to become the “bigger person.” It creates an environment in which students can be vulnerable and honest with themselves. 

Ms. Jean Sapula, a Physical Education and Athletics Faculty as well as a dorm affiliate for Ammidon Hall, projected similar views. She said, “Unfortunately, people may make mistakes, and as long as they take advantage of the amnesty policy and realize and learn from their mistakes, I am in favor of it.”

Allowing students to be granted anonymity also strengthens the bond and relationship between administration and students. As a school, Loomis wants to promote the greater good of the students, while still respecting their independence.

Rather than immediately imposing disciplinary action, the amnesty policy grants the ability to “dispose items [contraband] without fear of consequences, shame, humiliation, and punishment,” Katie Fullerton ’24, Ammidon Prefect, said.

When detailing the process of the amnesty policy, the 2022-23 Student Handbook highlights that only randomly selected rooms in respective dorms will be searched after amnesty is offered. Furthermore, by blind-picking student dorms, the school encourages the genuine relationship they hope all students share with the administration. By respecting the virtue of students, only imposing random searches illustrates how the true intentions of the administration are to simply create a home for students that is safe and healthy rather than an arduous space for students to come straightforward because of the looming threat of disciplinary actions. The establishment of a random room selection during the amnesty period is a preventative method of respecting student autonomy and rights while also fostering an environment that is sheltered for all students. 

If the aspect of blind-picking rooms is erased, and instead, all rooms are searched regardless, the trust between the school and the students would be sacrificed. Additionally, by searching every room, the school assumes students cannot reflect, learn, and become the “bigger person.” 

Giving students anonymity also preserves student health and safety. The amnesty policy reflects the school’s primary concern of protecting students from addictive substances rather than disciplining students.

Some students, such as Ammidon Hall affiliate Phoenix Ahipeaud ’25, believe the program is “more fair and beneficial to the students than to the Deans.” 

Ceci Johnson ’25 also noted that the program is “helpful for students because it gives students a chance to do the right thing.”

If the Loomis administration was completely remissive of substance or contraband usage, there would simply be no further room searches, and thus rare disciplinary action for students. However, room searches are still a crucial factor in the amnesty policy, contradicting particular beliefs of the school’s negligence over substance abuse among students. Instead, the current policy strikes a happy medium between allowing students a second chance while being somewhat aware if a student has broken the rules after the anonymity period is over. 

The amnesty policy mirrors the school motto of promoting “a purpose in [students’] lives and through that purpose serve the common good.”
Mr. Mike Donegan, Sophomore Dean of Students, noted that the policy is an example of a “preventative method that goes for health and safety, [something he is] enthusiastic about.”

Ultimately, it is more important to protect the health of students in an effective way rather than insisting on strict discipline.