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Introduction to the Handbook

Falls Church became an independent city in 1949 for the primary purpose of being able to establish its own school system.  George Mason High School is the only high school serving the Falls Church City community.

Some Highlights

▫  With a student body of about 820 students in grades 8-12, George Mason High School is one of the smallest public high schools in the Washington Metropolitan area.

▫  George Mason High School has been recognized for Excellence in Education by the Department of Education.

▫  George Mason High School was the first high school in Virginia to offer the rigorous International Baccalaureate program, and today approximately 70% of George Mason juniors and seniors participate in the program.

▫  More than 90% of George Mason graduates attend either four-year or two-year colleges.

▫  George Mason consistently has been ranked among the most challenging high schools in the nation (Newsweek Magazine).  The school is often cited among the most challenging high schools in the Washington Metropolitan area (The Washington Post).

Challenge Statement

The school’s philosophy is expressed in the challenge statement listed below:

At George Mason we are an exciting and collaborative community of learners who strive toward excellence.  We care for each other and take pride in and responsibility for our individual and mutual growth and accomplishments.  We celebrate our diversity and seek to foster respect for all in the community through global awareness and appreciation of our individual differences.

Our Students

George Mason High School is a school that sets high standards for all members of its community.  All students are expected to conduct themselves in a responsible manner consistent with those standards.  Appropriate conduct standards apply to all curricular, co-curricular, and extra-curricular activities that occur under the governance of this school.  These activities include, but are not limited to, bus transportation, athletic events, field trips, contests, and travel – on foot or by vehicle – between the home and school.  As good citizens and representatives of their school community, students in good standing are expected to do the following:

Comply with the school rules as outlined in this agenda

▪     Attend all classes for which they are scheduled
▪     Be honest and truthful with respect to personal interactions
▪     Observe the school’s honor code
▪     Resolve conflicts peacefully
▪     Be polite and respectful to students, staff, and visitors
▪     Use appropriate and acceptable language at all times
▪     Respect the rights and property of others
▪     Arrive on time for all classes and school activities
▪     Refrain from using or bringing prohibited items
▪     Use restricted items as required and instructed by staff
▪     Respect our shared environment as well as the physical and mental well-being of others

Attendance Requirement

All students are expected to attend school daily from 8:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.  When it is necessary for a student to be absent from school, the parent or legal guardian must notify the attendance secretary of the reasons for the absence.  The attendance line (703-248-5501) operates 24 hours a day and is equipped with a message machine. The calls must be made each day of the absence, preferably before 7:30 a.m.  If no notice has been made on the day of the absence, the student, upon return, must bring a parent/guardian note indicating the day and reason for the student’s absence or the parent/guardian must call the school and explain the absence.  Any absence not properly excused by a parent/guardian within two days of the absence will be considered an unexcused absence from school and classes.  Parents/guardians are asked to familiarize themselves with the information covering unexcused absences, make-up work, and truancy procedures (Policy 9.22).

In courses for which high school credit is earned, a student who is absent for any reason twelve times from a class that meets daily or six times from a blocked class during a quarter will receive a grade of “F” for the quarter.  Long term illnesses supported by a medical doctor’s written requirement of medical confinement will be considered for an exception to be decided by the principal after consultation with the class teacher and guidance counselor.

A student who is legitimately absent on the day of a test may be required to take the test on the returning day.  Make-up tests for excused absences are rescheduled by the teacher.  If a student is going to be absent three (3) or more days due to illness, the student or parent should contact the guidance department and request assignments from teachers.

Excused Absences:
The reasons a student’s absence may be excused are (1) student illness verified by a doctor and/or the parent/guardian, (2) extreme emergency in the family, (3) doctor/dentist appointment, (4) observance of a religious holiday, (5) pre-arranged and pre-approved absences as indicated in the next section, (6) death in the family, and (7) suspension.

Procedure for obtaining excused absences

Occasionally students may need to be absent from school for reasons other than those listed above. Absence requests for three days or more will be treated as excused absences if advance approval has been granted by a school administrator.  The steps to request approval are as follows:

  1. The student brings a note from home and gives it to the guidance secretary in the counseling office. The secretary gives the student an Absence Request Form.
  2. After completing the shaded areas on this form, the student asks each of his/her teachers to record grades and assignments in the spaces indicated on the form.
  3. The student asks for the pertinent signatures.
  4. At least three days prior to departure, the student returns the completed form to the principal for approval.

Absences will not be excused unless students are in good academic standing and the request procedure has been followed. Students are responsible for making up all missed class work.

Unexcused Absences:
Some examples of unexcused absences are trips not previously approved or denied by administrators, child care, non-school related activities, shopping, working, transportation problems, over-sleeping, missing the bus, and truancy.  According to school board policy, teachers must give reduced credit for work missed during unexcused absences.

State laws governing school attendance for minors under the age of 18 are very strict.  According to laws passed in 1999, five unexcused absences accumulated throughout the course of the school year constitute truancy.  As required by state law, notification of the truancy officer occurs with the fourth absence.  After the fifth cumulative, unexcused, day-long (or equivalent) absence or truant absence during the school year, the attendance officer will contact the parent or guardian to discuss the absences and the consequences of continued absences and develop a plan to resolve the nonattendance. A sixth cumulative absence will result in a conference with the parent or guardian, student, school staff member(s), attendance officer, and if appropriate, a community service provider.  The seventh absence will result in a complaint to the juvenile or domestic relations court.  Court proceedings against parents may also be initiated at that time.  High school students need to be aware that period absences may be considered by the courts when determining truancy, with approximately four unexcused classes counting as a full day of absences.

Make-up Work:
Students who have been absent are expected to make up work when they return.  Students should obtain missed assignments and then complete and submit this work.  For excused absences make-up work will receive full credit; for unexcused absences make-up work will receive reduced credit if submitted in a timely fashion and within the time frame specified by the teacher.  The amount of the reduction will be a letter grade (or ten points/ten percent if a numerical scale is used.)  Students and parent/guardians are reminded that academic achievement correlates highly with strong school attendance.  In courses where teachers have a published grading policy showing that class participation is considered as a percentage of the quarterly grade, all absences may affect a student’s quarterly grade.

Extended Absence:
Students who have a long-term illness are required to submit a doctor’s note to the school administration.  When warranted, students may receive homebound instruction.

Tardiness to School or Class:
A student’s tardiness to school or class constitutes a very serious disruption of the learning environment and as such tardies have a negative impact on all students’ ability to learn.  Excessive tardies will result in disciplinary action.  To preserve a positive learning environment, students who arrive tardy to class incur increasingly severe sanctions.  Students who arrive tardy to school, that is, students who are not in their classroom when observation of the minute of silence begins, are sanctioned under the following policy.

* All students tardy to school must report to the main office – even if they are less than a minute tardy.
* The first two unexcused tardies to school of five minutes or less are marked, and students are cautioned and then to class without penalty.
* The third tardy and fourth tardies to school of five minutes or less earn after-school detention of 30 minutes, assigned by the attendance secretary.
* Failure to serve assigned detention will result in an ASI (After School Intervention) assignment.
* The fifth tardy of five minutes or less to school, and all succeeding tardies of five minutes or less, earn a 100 minute detention in ASI.
* The first two tardies of more than five minutes will incur 30-minute detentions, with additional tardies of greater than five minutes resulting in assignment to ASI.
* Failure to report to ASI will result in an ASI assignment with escort.
* The count begins anew at the beginning of the second semester.
* All students who are tardy to other periods of the day are subject to the teacher’s attendance rules, which may include detention or referral to an administrator.

Acknowledgement of Crucial Items

All students are expected to attend school daily from 8:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.  When it is necessary for a student to be absent from school, the parent or legal guardian must notify the attendance secretary of the reasons for the absence.  The attendance line (703-248-5501) operates 24 hours a day and is equipped with a message machine. The calls must be made each day of the absence, preferably before 7:30 a.m.  If no notice has been made on the day of the absence, the student, upon return, must bring a parent/guardian note indicating the day and reason for the student’s absence or the parent/guardian must call the school and explain the absence.  Any absence not properly excused by a parent/guardian within two days of the absence will be considered an unexcused absence from school and classes.  Parents/guardians are asked to familiarize themselves with the information covering unexcused absences, make-up work, and truancy procedures (Policy 9.22).

In courses for which high school credit is earned, a student who is absent for any reason twelve times from a class that meets daily or six times from a blocked class during a quarter will receive a grade of “F” for the quarter.  Long term illnesses supported by a medical doctor’s written requirement of medical confinement will be considered for an exception to be decided by the principal after consultation with the class teacher and guidance counselor.

A student who is legitimately absent on the day of a test may be required to take the test on the returning day.  Make-up tests for excused absences are rescheduled by the teacher.  If a student is going to be absent three (3) or more days due to illness, the student or parent should contact the guidance department and request assignments from teachers.

Excused Absences:
The reasons a student’s absence may be excused are (1) student illness verified by a doctor and/or the parent/guardian, (2) extreme emergency in the family, (3) doctor/dentist appointment, (4) observance of a religious holiday, (5) pre-arranged and pre-approved absences as indicated in the next section, (6) death in the family, and (7) suspension.

Procedure for obtaining excused absences

Occasionally students may need to be absent from school for reasons other than those listed above. Absence requests for three days or more will be treated as excused absences if advance approval has been granted by a school administrator.  The steps to request approval are as follows:

  1. The student brings a note from home and gives it to the guidance secretary in the counseling office. The secretary gives the student an Absence Request Form.
  2. After completing the shaded areas on this form, the student asks each of his/her teachers to record grades and assignments in the spaces indicated on the form.
  3. The student asks for the pertinent signatures.
  4. At least three days prior to departure, the student returns the completed form to the principal for approval.

Absences will not be excused unless students are in good academic standing and the request procedure has been followed. Students are responsible for making up all missed class work.

Unexcused Absences:
Some examples of unexcused absences are trips not previously approved or denied by administrators, child care, non-school related activities, shopping, working, transportation problems, over-sleeping, missing the bus, and truancy.  According to school board policy, teachers must give reduced credit for work missed during unexcused absences.

State laws governing school attendance for minors under the age of 18 are very strict.  According to laws passed in 1999, five unexcused absences accumulated throughout the course of the school year constitute truancy.  As required by state law, notification of the truancy officer occurs with the fourth absence.  After the fifth cumulative, unexcused, day-long (or equivalent) absence or truant absence during the school year, the attendance officer will contact the parent or guardian to discuss the absences and the consequences of continued absences and develop a plan to resolve the nonattendance. A sixth cumulative absence will result in a conference with the parent or guardian, student, school staff member(s), attendance officer, and if appropriate, a community service provider.  The seventh absence will result in a complaint to the juvenile or domestic relations court.  Court proceedings against parents may also be initiated at that time.  High school students need to be aware that period absences may be considered by the courts when determining truancy, with approximately four unexcused classes counting as a full day of absences.

Make-up Work:
Students who have been absent are expected to make up work when they return.  Students should obtain missed assignments and then complete and submit this work.  For excused absences make-up work will receive full credit; for unexcused absences make-up work will receive reduced credit if submitted in a timely fashion and within the time frame specified by the teacher.  The amount of the reduction will be a letter grade (or ten points/ten percent if a numerical scale is used.)  Students and parent/guardians are reminded that academic achievement correlates highly with strong school attendance.  In courses where teachers have a published grading policy showing that class participation is considered as a percentage of the quarterly grade, all absences may affect a student’s quarterly grade.

Extended Absence:
Students who have a long-term illness are required to submit a doctor’s note to the school administration.  When warranted, students may receive homebound instruction.

Tardiness to School or Class:
A student’s tardiness to school or class constitutes a very serious disruption of the learning environment and as such tardies have a negative impact on all students’ ability to learn.  Excessive tardies will result in disciplinary action.  To preserve a positive learning environment, students who arrive tardy to class incur increasingly severe sanctions.  Students who arrive tardy to school, that is, students who are not in their classroom when observation of the minute of silence begins, are sanctioned under the following policy.

* All students tardy to school must report to the main office – even if they are less than a minute tardy.
* The first two unexcused tardies to school of five minutes or less are marked, and students are cautioned and then to class without penalty.
* The third tardy and fourth tardies to school of five minutes or less earn after-school detention of 30 minutes, assigned by the attendance secretary.
* Failure to serve assigned detention will result in an ASI (After School Intervention) assignment.
* The fifth tardy of five minutes or less to school, and all succeeding tardies of five minutes or less, earn a 100 minute detention in ASI.
* The first two tardies of more than five minutes will incur 30-minute detentions, with additional tardies of greater than five minutes resulting in assignment to ASI.
* Failure to report to ASI will result in an ASI assignment with escort.
* The count begins anew at the beginning of the second semester.
* All students who are tardy to other periods of the day are subject to the teacher’s attendance rules, which may include detention or referral to an administrator.

Behaviors prohibited by school rules and Virginia law

Prohibited conduct includes but is not limited to:
Alcohol, and other Substance violations  +
Arson  +
Assault  +
Bomb Threats  +
Bullying  +
Burglary +
Cheating
Criminal charges and convictions (felonies) +
Disobedience & Insubordination
Disruptive conduct +
Dress and Appearance, Inappropriate or disruptive
Driving unsafely or without a license
Extortion +
Fighting  and Horseplay +
Gambling +
Gang–Related Activity or Association +
Harassment +
Hazing  +
Homicide  +
Information Technology, Misuse
Kidnapping  +
Laser Pointer Possession
Portable Communications Devices, misuse
Profanity and Obscenity +
Sexual offenses +
Stalking
Theft +
Threats against students and staff  +
Tobacco violations +
Trespass on school property +
Unauthorized Photography
Unexcused Absence or Tardiness
Vandalism +
Weapons violations +

A “+”   mark after a listed behavior means that if the behavior rises to the level of criminal conduct, it will be reported to law enforcement authorities.  Criminal behavior may also lead to (1) suspension, expulsion or exclusion from the regular school program and/or (2) revocation of privileges to participate in extracurricular activities.  Students are also reminded that reasonable suspicion of rules being violated may trigger searches of cars, lockers, or technology files.

For details regarding school board policies on controlled substances, prohibited items, and other behavioral standards, please consult the relevant policies reprinted in the the FCCPS School Board Policies and Legal Information Packet. A copy of all school board policies is available in the George Mason library and on the school divison’s web site.

Bell Schedule

GMHS is officially open for students from 7:45 a.m. to 3:45 p.m.  After that time, those students who remain in the building must be in a supervised area such as the library or supervised by their teacher, coach, or activity sponsor.  The school day will consist of three 100-minute block periods and one 50-minute period.  The official end of the students’ school day is 3:00 p.m.  The time from 3:00 – 3:45 p.m. is reserved for contracts, club meetings and extra help.  Athletic practice does not begin until 3:45.  Students not engaged in scheduled student activities from 3:00 – 3:45 p.m. may remain in the building if they are under adult supervision.  The gymnasium and unsupervised hallways are off-limits to students during this time period.  Failure to follow school rules and to behave responsibly during after-school hours may result in a student’s being required to leave school grounds immediately at the close of the school day.  This sanction can well mean the loss of the privilege to participate in any and all after-school programs and activities, including sports.

Bullying

Bullying is subject to sanctioning at George Mason. Bullying is defined by FCCPS as behavior to intentionally, repeatedly, and over time inflict or threaten to inflict physical or emotional injury or discomfort on another’s body, feelings or possessions.  A person is being bullied when he or she is exposed, repeatedly and over time, to negative actions on the part of one or more persons. Bullying behaviors include actions which cause the physical, verbal or emotional abuse of others.  Taunts, threats, insults, gossip, humiliation, teasing, pushing, tripping, and hitting are all considered bullying behaviors. Bullying may also include cyber-bullying, which may include using information and communication technologies such as e-mail, cell phone and pager text messages, instant messaging, defamatory personal web sites, and defamatory online personal polling web sites, to support deliberate, hostile behavior intended to harm others.  Some bullying behaviors may also fit the definition of other prohibited behaviors, such as assault/battery, and will be handled accordingly, up to and including referral to law enforcement authorities.

Bus Regulations

The code of Virginia, Section 22.1 – 176, permits school boards to provide transportation for students but does not require them to do so.  School bus transportation is a privilege.  Violation of bus regulations could result in a suspension or in the permanent removal of bus riding privileges.  Generally, high school students are bused if they live south of Broad Street or east of Pennsylvania Avenue.  Buses leave the school approximately five minutes after the end of the school day, Monday through Friday.

Cafeteria use and lunches

Lunch is served at George Mason High School for all students who wish to participate.  A variety of foods is available from an a la carte line.  Students may also bring their lunch from home and buy milk, ice cream or other items separately.  Students must consume food and beverages only in the dining room or in other specifically designated areas.  All trash must be deposited in the trash receptacles, and the tables must be cleared off.

Free and reduced-price lunch is available depending upon a family’s income level.  Application forms for free and/or reduced-price lunch may be obtained in the George Mason High School office.

Without staff permission, students may not leave the cafeteria or the adjoining designated eating areas before the end of lunch.  The gymnasium, the gym lobby, and the front-office lobby are off limits during lunch and during any other time.  Students are expected to use the restroom closest to the cafeteria, and lockers can be accessed only during the time designated for passing to classes.

Cars driven to school and parking

Student parking is limited at the George Mason campus.  Parking privileges will be extended to seniors first. Parking privileges will be extended to underclassmen if additional spaces are available.  Students who want parking privileges must purchase a parking permit from the high school office. A Parking Regulations and Rules Contract must be signed by the parent or guardian and the student.  The signed contract must be returned to the high school office along with proof of car registration.

All outstanding student debts must be paid prior to obtaining a permit.  Any violation of the following regulations or any driving considered unsafe or illegal can result in the suspension of driving privileges and/or one’s car being towed.

Parking Lot Regulations
▪ Respect the speed limit of 15 mph at all times.
▪ Students must park in the designated student lot only and within the lines.
▪ Students may not loiter in the lot nor return to their cars or drive them during the school day, including lunch, unless they have administrative permission to do so.
▪ While on school property, cars may be subject to search by school authorities.

Cell Phone Use
To provide a safe environment free of undue distractions from learning, telephone use for students during the school day is restricted to true emergencies. Coin-operated machines can be used after instructional hours and during lunch breaks. In case of emergencies students may ask for permission to use their cell phones in the main office. Otherwise cell phones are restricted in their use during the school day: please consult the section for restricted items on the next page.
Change of Address Requirement
If a George Mason family moves to a new address, it is the responsibility of the parent/guardian to notify the school about the change of address within three days.  If the new address is not within the City of Falls Church, parents/guardians may apply for their student to continue attending Falls Church City Public Schools on a tuition basis.  Otherwise, the child’s student records will be transferred to his/her new school. Failure to inform the school about a move outside school boundaries is a violation of state law (Code of Virginia 22.21-264.1) and as such it is subject to criminal prosecution.
Clinic and Medication for Students
The clinic is staffed by clinic aides and supervised by the Fairfax County Public Health Nurse during normal school hours.  The aides are permitted to dispense medication according to the Medication Policy/Regulation reprinted in the FCCPS School Board Policies and Legal Information Packet when parents/guardians have provided the proper medical release forms.  The forms are available from the clinic aides.  The aides act in a first aid capacity and make necessary decisions and recommendations involving students’ health care and well-being.  Parents and students are advised to consult the pertinent section of the FCCPS School Board Policies and Legal Information Packet (Policy 9.38)
Closed Campus
George Mason High School is a closed-campus school for all students except for those students participating in Senior Honor or in off-campus educational programs.  Students may not leave school grounds at any time during the school day without administrative permission.  All students with permission to leave must properly sign out in the office.  Once students arrive on school grounds, they must remain on campus until the end of the school day.  Students are not allowed to go to their cars during the school day, walk to nearby stores, or leave campus before or during the school day once they arrive.  Students eligible to leave campus must carry their respective cards.  Underclassmen must remain in the cafeteria area for the entire lunch period.
Dress Code
Based on the belief that school is a place of business where students are learning both academic and social skills, the expectation is that students will dress in a way that is appropriate to a business environment.  Students may not to wear any clothing or apparel that is deemed distracting, overly revealing, unsafe, dangerous, or a health hazard by school authorities.  Students are not permitted to wear any clothing/apparel that exhibits offensive or obscene symbols, signs, slogans, or words degrading to any gender, culture, religion, or ethnic group or which promotes violence, drugs, alcohol, or tobacco.  Students are not allowed to wear any gang-related apparel including but not limited to bandannas, spikes, and chains. Students are reminded that both droopy trousers for gentlemen and excessively bared skin for young ladies are inappropriate attire for school.
Requirements for Extra-curricular Activities
George Mason High School recognizes the value of participation in extra-curricular activities, clubs, athletics, and organizations.  These activities can teach students values such as self-discipline, self-confidence, perseverance, teamwork, sacrifice, dedication and leadership.  These activities are not part of the regular school curriculum and generally take place outside of the classroom.  Participation in these activities is a privilege subject to revocation.  Students scheduled to participate in an extracurricular activity must attend school on the day of the activity in order to participate in the activity.  Further information regarding student conduct expected of George Mason athletes can be found in the George Mason Athletic Handbook.
Emergency Closings
Under adverse weather conditions or other emergencies, Falls Church City Public Schools may open late, close early, or be closed the entire day.  When any of the above situations or emergency closing exists, news media will be requested to make announcements.  The decision to close schools or open late will generally be made before 6:30 a.m.  Parents are advised to watch announcements on Channel 12.  The school web site is also a source of this information:  www.fccps.org
Field Trips
Any student participating in a field trip must have an official field trip permission form signed by the student’s parent/guardian.  Under no circumstances will a student be permitted to go on the trip without the signed form.  The form permits medical professionals to render emergency treatment.  Only chaperones and students enrolled at George Mason are permitted to participate in field trip activities.  Participation in field trips is a privilege that may be revoked for students who fail to comply with school rules or for students with chronic discipline infractions.
Fire Drills, Lock Downs, and Shelter in Place

State law mandates that schools conduct regular safety drills, including fire drills, lock downs, tornado drills, and shelter in place exercises.

Upon the sounding of the fire alarm, students must proceed immediately out of the building in an orderly fashion under the direction of staff.  All students must move well away from the building and keep out of roadways, giving fire equipment free access to all areas.  Students must stay with their respective class or groups and remain outside until signaled to return to the building.  Under no circumstances should anyone delay exiting the building by stopping at another location such as lockers or restrooms.  Fire drill exits are posted in each classroom.  When students are in the cafeteria, they are to report to the area behind the cafeteria and stay together in a large group well off the roadway under the supervision of staff.

During lock-downs, bad weather drills, or shelter in place exercises, students must remain in designated areas and closely follow all directions by staff.  Student who refuse to follow staff instructions during safety drills are subject to severe sanctions.

Honor Code

Integrity is an essential component of a just and civilized society, and, therefore, of a successful learning environment.  Students are expected to demonstrate high standards of academic, personal, and social integrity as members of the George Mason community.  Students should be aware of the consequences of behaviors and take responsibility for their actions.

Honor Pledge

On my honor, I have neither given nor received any unauthorized aid on this assignment.

Late Arrivals and Early Dismissals

Juniors and seniors who are eligible for late arrival or early dismissal (as described in the Student Course Selection Handbook) are issued a card indicating the late arrival or early dismissal privilege.  This card must be carried by eligible students at all times.  Students who do not abide by the school rules and regulations listed on the card will lose their privileges and will be required to attend study hall for a time deemed appropriate by the school administration.

Late arrivals and Early dismissals

Juniors and seniors who are eligible for late arrival or early dismissal (as described in the Student Course Selection Handbook) are issued a card indicating the late arrival or early dismissal privilege.  This card must be carried by eligible students at all times.  Students who do not abide by the school rules and regulations listed on the card will lose their privileges and will be required to attend study hall for a time deemed appropriate by the school administration.

Library

The Irvin H. Schmitt Library, which offers students a pleasant place to study as well as a wide selection of materials, is open on school days from 7:45 a.m. – 4:15 p.m. for the purposes of reading and research.  Students coming to the library from study hall or other class must first be issued a library pass from their teacher.

Books from the regular collection, paperbacks, and back issues of periodicals may be checked out for a period of three weeks; encyclopedias and current issues of periodicals may be checked out overnight.  Books placed on reserve are usually available for overnight circulation; Reference books circulate overnight with the permission of the librarian.  Overnight items may be checked out after the last class but must be returned by 8:00 a.m. the next day.  A GMHS student identification card serves as the library card.

Students with overdue materials will not be permitted to borrow additional materials until the overdue items are returned and the fine paid.  A fine of $.10 per day will be charged for overdue books and periodicals.  Overdue current periodicals, reference books as well as books on reserve will accrue fines of $.25 per day.  Students are responsible for the replacement cost of all lost or damaged materials.

Lost and Found

Students who find items not belonging to them must give the item to a staff member.  If an item has been stolen, students are to report this theft to the administration and the School Resource Officer immediately.  Any items found on a bus should be given to the bus driver.  Students are advised NOT to bring valuable personal property to school.  Examples of such property include cameras, MP3 players, expensive watches or toys, electronic games, radio/tape players and large sums of money.  Valuables should not be left in lockers. Backpacks and other belongings should not be left unattended.  The school is not responsible for stolen and missing items.  A student should never bring to school an amount of money or personal item he/she is not prepared to misplace or lose!  If a student does lose an item, he/she is invited to check the Lost and Found located in the main office and the cafeteria.  Items still unclaimed at the end of each quarter will be donated to charitable organizations.

Messages to Students

Because we place a high value on the instruction our students receive, we do not interrupt classes to deliver personal items or personal messages unless there is a true emergency.  To deliver routine messages we will post a student’s name on the white board in the hall outside the library to indicate an item or message waiting.  Parents are also reminded that students may not use their cell phones during the duration of the school day and therefore will not receive messages until they are allowed to access their phones at the end of the instructional day.

National Honor Society

The Mason Chapter of the National Honor Society (NHS) was established in 1953 as both a scholastic and service organization.  To become eligible for consideration of membership, a GMHS student must show excellence in four areas:  scholarship, character, service and leadership.

Scholarship: A student who has attended GMHS for a minimum of one full semester may become eligible for selection in the sophomore, junior or senior year provided a 3.5 or higher cumulative GPA is attained.  This GPA must be maintained for all students accepted into the organization.

Character: As a member of the “Character Counts!” Coalition, the National Honor Society supports and recommends the definition of character known as the “Six Pillars of Character.”  A high level of integrity and honor is expected of all members; students are expected to possess the following six qualities:  respect, responsibility, trustworthiness, fairness, caring and citizenship.  Teachers are asked to rate all eligible students on these qualities.  A minimum 3 out of 4 points must be achieved to be considered for acceptance.

Activities: An activity point is earned by participating for one school year as a working member in any of the school-related clubs or organizations.  One season as an active member of a sports team also constitutes an activity point.  All out of school activities such as sports and music lessons require a letter on letterhead from the supervisory personnel stating the type of service/activity, work performed and number of hours of involvement.  Students may not have received a salary, remuneration or school credit for any of the activities.  A minimum of 6 activities is necessary to be considered for acceptance.

Leadership: Students who have not either been an elected officer or team captain may achieve a leadership point by presenting three written recommendations by members of the GMHS faculty.

It is the responsibility of the NHS Faculty Council to review all materials received and to vote on the selection of new members.  Receipt of a student activity form does not guarantee selection into the National Honor Society.

Once admitted, the NHS member is required to attend all meetings and to participate in various individual and service activities sponsored by the chapter.  Thirty hours of individual community service are required for each year a student is an active member of NHS.  Fifteen of the thirty hours must be completed prior to the end of the first semester. All service projects must receive prior approval of the NHS adviser.
Open Study for Eligible Seniors
Open study is a privilege earned by seniors whose grades and behavior indicate good standing.  Students who meet these criteria are issued an open study card.  Students must remain in the building in designated areas during open study.  These designated areas include the library, the senior hallway and the cafeteria if it is not otherwise in use.  The gymnasium and the lobby in front of the gym are always off limits.  If students are not in the designated areas during their open period, their open study privilege is subject to immediate revocation by the school administration.  Open-study privileges may also be revoked if a student incurs any discipline referrals during a given school year.
Passes
Hall passes are required when students leave their designated classroom with their teacher’s approval.  Students should not leave class without an authorized pass signed by the teacher or study hall monitor.  Seniors on routine business authorized by the teacher are not required to carry a hall pass.
Phone Use for Students
To provide a safe environment free of undue distractions from learning, telephone use for students during the school day is restricted to true emergencies. Coin-operated machines can be used after instructional hours and during lunch breaks. In case of emergencies students may ask for permission to use their cell phones in the main office. Otherwise cell phones are restricted in their use during the school day: please consult the section for restricted items on the next page.
PE Lockers and School Lockers
Lockers and combinations are assigned to each student.  The combination should NOT be told to other students, nor should lockers be traded.  Lockers are subject to search by school authorities, and students are held responsible for the content of the lockers issued to them. Students are responsible for classroom books and other items left in their lockers while the lockers are assigned to them.  Valuables should not be stored in any locker.
Plagiarism

Plagiarism constitutes a serious violation of school expectations and norms.  As such it may result in severe school sanctions, including out-of-school suspension.  To assure academic integrity, student work is subject to scrutiny for evidence of plagiarism, with technological services such as turnitin.com available to staff.  Students who are unsure about the nature of plagiarism may reflect on the definition stated by Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary. “Plagiarize: vb; to steal or pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one’s own: to use (a created production) without crediting the source; to commit literary theft; to present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source.”  Plagiarism, in other words, can be caused not only by deceitfulness but also by careless work habits.

George Mason High School students are required to sign and submit the honor pledge with all work formally assessed by teachers.

Prohibited and Restricted Use Items

Many items, including items commonly found in private homes, are not permitted in school, or these items are restricted in their use in order to promote safety and to protect our students’ learning environment.

Prohibited items are items that affect the safety of students and staff.  These items include all substances either legally prohibited or legally prohibited from use by minors, or paraphernalia for such substance use, for example lighters or matches.  Also prohibited are knives of any size or kind as well as other weapons of any kind.  For details about all prohibited items, please consult the pertinent sections of the FCCPS School Board Policies and Legal Information Packet.

Use of medication is allowed at George Mason but this use is regulated and restricted by school board policy.  Students requiring medicine during the school day, including over-the-counter medications, need to become familiar with the full school board policy reprinted in the FCCPS School Board Policies and Legal Information Packet (Policy 9.38).

Restricted in their use are a number of items that have a negative impact on good order and discipline or items that detract from a good learning environment.  These items include electronic devices such as beepers, cell phones, or headphones for electronic music or video devices.  Cell phones, beepers, and similar devices cannot be used or be in evidence during the school day.  All cell phones must be turned off COMPLETELY and stowed out of sight during the school day.  Emergency use of cell phones is permitted ONLY when students go to the main office to use their phones. Headphones are not to be used during the school day except as outlined by an IEP, as permitted during study hall, in the cafeteria, or used by seniors seated in the senior hallway.  At no time ever can sounds from an electronic device be audible to bystanders.

For the full school board policies regarding electronic devices, controlled substances, and weapons, students and parents are asked to consult the pertinent policies reprinted in the FCCPS School Board Policies and Legal Information Packet.

Sanctions regarding infractions against the use of restricted or prohibited items range in severity from confiscation of items (for example in cases of inappropriate cell phone use) to a recommendation for expulsion, depending on the full context and both the severity and the frequency of the infractions.

Publications beyond Student Agenda

In addition to this student agenda, a number of other publications are available to provide information to parents and students.  For example, the guidance department publishes the George Mason Program of Studies as well as Directions, a guide to help students and parents plan the student’s four years of high school learning. GMHS grading policies are printed in their entirety in the Program of Studies. The George Mason Athletic Handbook is distributed to all student athletes.  The full School Board Policy Manual can be found on the division web site, and all documents listed above are also available for perusal in the George Mason library.

Public Display of Affections

Excessive public display of affection is not appropriate at school.  Students are expected to demonstrate maturity and respect for each other.  Any display of affection beyond handholding may be considered inappropriate.  Students who engage in indiscreet behavior will be counseled initially.  Continued inappropriate behavior will require a meeting with parents and may result in disciplinary action.

School Dances

Dancing and Appropriate Interactions:  "Excessive public display of affection is not appropriate at school.  Students are expected to demonstrate maturity and respect for each other."

Students are expected to be respectful of each other on the dance floor and responsive to prompts from chaperones. The direction that students are facing while dancing, and whether they are dancing alone, in pairs, or in groups is not cause for concern.  On the other hand, excessive contact, inappropriate touching, groping, and sexual simulations will be cause for time off the dance floor, parent contact, or dismissal from the dance and may result in additional school sanctions.

Guests (from schools other than GM): Dances at GM are planned and implemented for the enjoyment of our student population.  Guests from other schools may be brought only by students in grade 10, 11, and 12.  GM student hosts and guests must follow guidelines and restrictions that assure the safety, order, and good discipline of our school.  The guidelines for dance guests are as follows:

a)    Limit one guest per GM student host. The host must be in good standing with respect to grades, attendance and behavior.

b)    Hosts must pre-register the guest providing name, age, school, guardian contact and phone of the guest.  The guest must also be a student in good standing at his/her school as verified by a school administrator. All guests must have the express permission of the GMHS to attend the dance.

c) An administrator from the guest's home school must verify that the proposed guest is in good standing in his or her own school.

d)    Student hosts accept responsibility for the guest and are subject to sanction as a result of the guest's misconduct.

e)    Guest must bring valid photo ID and present it upon arrival to the administrator at the dance.

f)    The dance is a high school dance.  It is expected that  guests will be high school students. Guests 18 years old or older will be screened and admitted on a case-by-case basis. Middle school students are ineligible for GMHS dances.

g)    Coming as a guest or hosting a guest is a privilege that may be revoked by the school.  Administrators may revoke a guest’s privileges at any time including but not limited to, the time of the initial arrival of the guest (even if the guest has been pre-registered.)

h)     Guests are subject to all school rules and procedures.

Tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs: The use, possession, or distribution, or being under the influence of illegal drugs and other prohibited substances on school property, while engaged in or attending a school activity…is prohibited by school policy as well as the law and is cause for removal from school.     (excerpt from FCCPS policy 9.36)

Smoking, chewing or any other use of any tobacco products by students shall be prohibited on school property.  (excerpt from FCCPS policy 9.37)

School Sanctions

In order to promote safety, order, good discipline, and a favorable learning environment for all, teachers and staff will use a variety of strategies to help guide student behavior.  Typically, these strategies are the following:

  • Conference with student
  • Phone contact with parent/guardian
  • Conference with parent/guardian
  • Conference with guidance counselor
  • Referral to Child Study
  • Referral to Gateway
  • Time-out assigned by teacher
  • Detention assigned by a teacher
  • School-wide detention
  • Referral to school administrators

Students who fail to act in accordance with the stated rules or standards will face disciplinary sanctions imposed by school administrators. Administrative disciplinary actions include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Revocation of privileges such as participation in field trips, riding the school bus, open study, senior honors, or driving/parking a car on school property.  These privileges may be revoked without prior parental notice.
  • Revocation of privileges such as attending or participating in any and all extra-curricular activities including athletics.  When extra-curricular privileges are revoked, prior parental notice will be given in cases where such privileges are revoked for 10 or more days.
  • Detention:  A student who has been assigned detention by a teacher or administrator must report to the designated detention room by 3:05 and remain there until 3:35.
  • Service: Students may be assigned service hours to be completed within a designated time period and to be performed at the school under the supervision of a member of the school staff.  This service could involve grounds clean-up, clerical duties, teacher assistance or other arranged duties.
  • Saturday School: Saturday school is designed as an alternative to disciplinary actions that might otherwise occasion class absences.  Students are expected to complete academic work and community service during Saturday school.  Community service activities include, but are not limited to, washing blackboards, picking up trash on campus and cleaning windows.  Saturday school will be held as deemed necessary during the school year.
  • In-school Suspension (ISS):  A student who is assigned in-school suspension is removed from his/her regularly scheduled classes.  Parents are notified in writing.  On a day a student is assigned to in-school suspension, he/she is ineligible to participate in or attend that day’s extra-curricular activities and events.  Dismissal at day’s end precludes participation in any after after-school or evening event. ISS may occur for a full day or in the form of time-out from any given class.
  • Removal from Class.
  • Out-of-School Suspension (OSS):  This is a very serious penalty because it results in a student’s being barred from school, the school grounds and all school activities.  Parents are contacted by phone and by letter.  Students are encouraged to make up missed work during suspensions. Parents must attend a conference with their child and a school administrator in order for the student to be readmitted to school.  The entire School Board Policy and Regulation concerning suspension or expulsion can be found in FCCPS School Board Policies and Legal Information Packet (Policy 9.26).
  • Referral to the Superintendent: A referral to the Superintendent will occur when a student has demonstrated an inability or unwillingness to adhere to the student conduct code, and other disciplinary actions have been ineffective.  The student will be suspended out of school pending a conference with the Superintendent and the student’s parent or guardian.  Return to school would be dependent on the decision of the Superintendent.  Referrals to the Superintendent for serious or repeated offenses could result in a recommendation for either alternative placement or expulsion from the Falls Church City Public Schools (See Policy 9.26).
School Visitors

All visitors must report to the office.  Parents are always welcome to visit the school and are encouraged to do so.  However, we require that all visitors, including parents, report to the office to obtain a visitor’s pass.  For few and very exceptional reasons, students from other schools may be permitted to visit George Mason.  They may do so only after a visit has been requested both in writing and well in advance of the event.  It must have been approved by the administration.  A form for this purpose is available in the main office.

School Volunteer Visitors: We are appreciative of and grateful for the work done by volunteers, but to ensure the safety of our students, the names of all volunteers and chaperones will be checked against the Sex Offenders Registry.

Study Hall

Study hall is scheduled as a class, and all general rules for appropriate classroom behavior apply.  Students must bring appropriate and adequate study materials to study hall.

Student Activities

Academic Council,Band,Cappies,Chess Club,Chorus,Dances and Dance Team,Drama,Environmental Club,International Club,It’s Academic/Scholastic Bowl,Lasso Online (newspaper),Math Club and junior Math League,Model UN,MUSTANG (yearbook),National Honor Society,Nine Muses,Robotics Club,SADD,Spanish Club,Stage Crew,Student Council Association,Scholastic Bowl/ It’s Academic

ATHLETICS

Boys Varsity Baseball,Boys JV/Varsity Basketball,Boys JV/Varsity Football,Boys JV/Varsity Soccer,Boys Varsity Tennis,Boys Varsity Wrestling,Cheerleading JV/Varsity (Fall and Winter Seasons),Cross Country,Girls JV/Varsity Basketball,Girls JV/Varsity Soccer,Girls Varsity Soccer,Girls Varsity Softball,Girls Varsity Tennis,Girls JV/Varsity Volleyball,Lacrosse,Track and Field

Student Assistance Programs and Gateway

The Student Assistance Program (changed to Gateway in 2006-2007) first piloted during the 2004/05 school year focuses on the needs of students who are encountering problems that interfere with their learning.  It seeks to provide interventions for struggling students before students are in full crisis.  Interventions for identified students might take the form of additional support from school personnel or resources.  Interventions might also take the form of treatment that occurs in the community, often through health-care or mental-health-care professionals.

To create an effective GMHS Gateway Program, staff members have expanded on already existing intervention methods such as the child study and the alternative education placement process.  As has been the case in the past, parents or staff may refer students to child study.  Parents, students, or community members may also make referrals to Gateway.  Referrals to child study become part of a student’s educational record, and this process should be used whenever formal documentation is required, for instance, when a learning difficulty is suspected.  Referrals to Gateway, on the other hand, are confidential.  Gateway referrals are treated as any referral to the counseling staff would be treated and do not become part of the educational record.

Gateway Team members have been trained by a Student Assistance Program (SAP) professional knowledgeable about the procedures of SAP, a well established program for at-risk students that is used in school districts across the nation. Ongoing training for GM Staff includes some of the following topicsL recognizing at-risk behaviors, referral procedures, and working effectively with school staff and the parent community. Referrals to Gateway are accepted from parents, community members, staff, or students. The Gateway Team at GM includes the assistant principals, the guidance staff, several teachers, including special education teacher, and the district's social worker.  Students potentially in need of intervention are identified on the basis of attendance, grades, and observable behaviors that are detrimental to student success.

The majority of students screened by Gateway receive increased support through the school system.  In cases where Gateway members feel that interventions require expertise beyond that available to school personnel, students can be referred for diagnostic assessment.  This diagnostic assessment, performed by non-school personnel, will be done at no cost to parents. Assessments seek to clarify for parents what treatment strategies ought to be pursued.  For example, an assessor would work with the family to ascertain whether the parents of a student should consult a physician, a mental health professional, or a substance abuse treatment program.

The GMHS Gateway Program allows the school to identify at-risk behavior and to communicate effectively but confidentially about students who appear to need adult support and early intervention.

Student Release during the School Day

Students who have parent permission to leave school before the official end of the school day must bring to school a document showing parent permission for early departure.  Students must show this note to the teacher before the beginning of class and leave class without disruption to other students.  Any student leaving the building must sign out at the main office.  To protect the integrity of instruction, main office staff is not authorized to call into a classroom to arrange for student release or to give messages to students.

Tardy to School

Tardiness to School or Class:
A student’s tardiness to school or class constitutes a very serious disruption of the learning environment and as such tardies have a negative impact on all students’ ability to learn.  Excessive tardies will result in disciplinary action.  To preserve a positive learning environment, students who arrive tardy to class incur increasingly severe sanctions.  Students who arrive tardy to school, that is, students who are not in their classroom when observation of the minute of silence begins, are sanctioned under the following policy

  • All students tardy to school must report to the main office even if they are only one minute tardy.
    ▪ The first two unexcused tardies of five minutes or less are marked, and students will be sent to class without penalty.
    ▪ The third tardy of five minutes or less earns after-school detention assigned by the attendance secretary.
    ▪  The fourth tardy of five minutes or less earns an automatic Saturday School.
    ▪ Thereafter, each tardy of five minutes or less earns an automatic Saturday School.
    ▪ All tardies of five minutes or more earn an automatic Saturday School.
    ▪  After a student has attended three Saturday Schools for attendance reasons, they will then be assigned In-School Suspension for future tardies.
    ▪  All of the actions referenced above are cumulative over the course of an entire semester.  The count does NOT begin anew each quarter but continues throughout the course of each semester.

Bell Schedule

A Day: 1, Mustang Block, 3,5,7
B Day: 2,Mustang Block,3,4,6

1 or 2: 8:00-9:35
Mustang Block: 9:40-10:11
Starting Gate (GR8 Only) 9:40-9:45
3: 10:16-11:06
4 or 5 + lunch: 11:13-1:18
6 or 7: 1:25-3:00

Lunch Schedule

A lunch: 11:13-11:37
B lunch: 11:46-12:10
C lunch: 12:21-12:45
D lunch: 12:54-1:18

Short Wednesday Schedule

1 or 2: 8:00-9:22
3: 9:29-10:17
4 or 5 + lunch: 10:24-12:16
6 or 7: 12:23-1:45

2 Hour Late Arrival

1 or 2: 10:00-11:25
4 or 5 + Lunch: 11:33-1:28
6 or 7: 1:35-3:00

 A Falls Church City Public School
7124 Leesburg Pike Falls Church, VA 22043
Phone: (703)248-5500 Fax: (703)248-5533 Attendance: (703)248-5501