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A new behavioral program at St. Peter’s School in Waldorf has students taking responsibility for their actions and making sure other students are in line, too.

Much like in the popular young adult fantasy series about Harry Potter, the middle school section of St. Peter’s has divided itself into houses.

Sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students form three houses named after archangels Michael, Raphael and Gabriel.

The house gets points if a house member is credited with a random act of kindness or does something positive that a teacher or other person outside of the house notices.

For example, if a student helps out a younger student or is polite to a teacher, that student’s house will receive a point. Houses also get points for members achieving school and classroom goals, such as making progress on reading and math programs.

Points are taken away from houses for misbehavior or for students not being in uniform.

Any teacher can give and take away house points.

“The idea is that the students police themselves,” Principal J.R. West said.

Students remain in their same daily classes and continue their normal school lives, but once a week, the houses, about 30 students each, meet with their “room mother” to work together and discuss the house’s progress.

Judy Schlumbrecht, seventh-grade teacher and house mother for the St. Michael house, said students are really getting involved with the program and working together.

When it comes to helping students complete tasks or do the right thing, Schlumbrecht said she hears housemates saying, “Let’s do this” or “We can do this right.”

Schlumbrecht said students realize that if they don’t follow procedures or behave, they will get points taken away from the house.

Receiving the most points means receiving a big reward.

The winning house at the end of each marking period receives a trophy called the Principal’s Cup, which is placed in the house mother’s classroom for the next marking period. The winning house also gets a special trip. Last quarter, the winning house, St. Michael, won a trip to the Capital Clubhouse in Waldorf for a day of play while the rest of the school stayed back.

Bishop Dietrich, 11, a member of the St. Michael house, said the houses were a good thing.

“It shows how we can use teamwork,” he said.

Bishop said his house won last marking period because his house worked together and started behaving better. Because of that, their points increased.

Kharis Spencer, 11, also in the St. Michael house, said the program helps students with their behavior, attitudes and education.

St. Michael house member Luda Theriault, 11, said house meetings are a time to talk with students who might need help remembering to keep their shirts tucked in or to wear a tie.

Some teachers said they have noticed students bringing extra ties to school for the boys who are required to wear a tie on liturgy days.

To those who continue to misbehave, Luda’s advice is simple. “You want to lose points? Keep it up.”

Luda is in the house to win, and winning means acting right and flying straight, but not in the direction of West’s office.

Since the program began at the beginning of this school year, West said he has noticed about a 90 percent decrease in the amount of students sent to his office for behavioral problems.

Though the idea is easily identified with Harry Potter houses, the idea did not come from the books.

West got the idea from a teachers conference over the summer, and because he is always looking for different “gimmicks” to use at the school, he thought it was worth a shot.

West said the houses were able to design their own family crest and that he is thinking of getting T-shirts made for students with their crests.

gphillips@somdnews.com