Sudbury Education can be summarized in five Sudbury Principles:

1. Respect for the individual

We believe that every person has the right to choose for themselves how to spend their time, provided that they don’t harm anyone. We believe that this right extends to children as well as adults.

2. Genuine Democracy

Every Sudbury School is governed by an assembly called School Meeting, in which every student and every staffer has exactly one vote, regardless of age. We believe that democracy is superior to any form of autocracy.

3. No Required Academics

We do not require our students to learn anything, except for the bare minimum which may be necessary to secure a safe community. We provide resources and opportunities for learning, but we do not coerce anyone to learn. We believe that people are naturally curious.

4. Age-mixing

We believe that children of all ages, from as young as four to as old as eighteen, should be allowed to intermingle with each other, and with adults.

5. Fair Justice System

We reject the autocratic idea that the teacher is “in charge” and can simply dole out punishments as they please. Instead, justice is served impartially by the community. Anyone, student or staff, can make a formal complaint that someone else has violated a rule. Anyone, student or staff, may be accused by anyone else. These accusations go before the Judicial Committee (J.C.), the membership of which is partly elected and partly selected at random.

The accused has the right to speak to J.C., to plead either Guilty or Not Guilty, to claim extenuating circumstances, to call witnesses in their defense, to share ideas as to what punishment may or may not be appropriate, and so on. If J.C. votes to charge the accused with a crime to which they plead Not Guilty, or if J.C. assigns a punishment which the accused believes to be unfair, then the accused has the right to appeal directly to School Meeting, which will hold a trial in which the rights of the accused are still preserved, and in which the matter will be settled by majority vote of the school membership. And of course, if someone is convicted of violating a rule which they argue should not exist in the first place, then they may potentially persuade School Meeting to repeal the rule and void the punishment.

These procedures exist to ensure that innocent people are not punished. Furthermore, our aim is to use punitive measures only when necessary. We prefer to educate rather than punish, when education is effective, and we endorse no punishment which infringes on the basic human dignity of the accused.


For more on how this works in practice, see our FAQ, our books page or our links page.