Opinion: The attendance policy at MCHS is too strict

Though the rationale for assigning tardy detentions seems logical, the punishment does not fit the crime


Madison Wise

Administration uses tardies and detentions to deter students from arriving late. But are there other ways of encouraging students to arrive on time that are less punitive?

Stacy Correra, Copy Editor

It’s snowing outside, and a West campus student leaves her house early to safely get to school on time. She even skips her usual morning coffee trip. With ten minutes to spare, she pulls up to the street the school is on, but it is completely backed up on both sides. The student sees that the light is green, but no one is moving. The clock ticks down. She finally gets into the parking lot’s one entrance, which doubles as the only exit, and finds a spot. At this point, she is already late for school. Knowing she’ll get a detention as soon as she walks in the door, she considers just going home and calling in sick to avoid it, even though she knows she has a math test she’ll have to make up.

When an attendance policy’s punishment is so severe that students consider staying home rather than being late to school, it warrants reconsideration.

Holding students accountable for being late to school makes sense. Administration believes that students know what time school starts and should plan accordingly. For all intents and purposes, the bell rings at 7:20 for East and 7:30 at West. Missing a class within its first 20 minutes results in a tardy; after missing the first 20 minutes of a period, a student receives a cut. Administrators sometimes exempt tardies in special cases, especially when inclement weather impacts large numbers of students and up to one hour, but not in every case.

Detentions have deadlines, but students may have job or family commitments that make detentions difficult. When students do not serve them or receive additional tardies, they are given additional consequences. Though staff and assistant principals are often willing to work with students to fulfill these obligations, they can build up to an ISS (in-school suspension). Some students skip school instead of receiving more tardies or detentions, but this causes more problems; instead of just missing the first couple of minutes of first period, they miss all classes all day and have to catch up on that day’s content another time, and they fall behind.

This doesn’t just apply to walking in the building late, however. The five minute passing period doesn’t give them enough time to arrive in first period. If a student gets to school as soon as the first bell rings, which is on time, then they have to go to their locker on the other side of the school. Many lockers are faulty and don’t open on the first try. Then, they have to walk to their classrooms, however far that room may be from their locker. Students could have to use the bathroom because they left their house in a rush and didn’t have time to before they left. Students can be marked late to first hour anyway, even with their effort to make it to school on time, and get detentions, regardless if they were really late. 

Both campuses are too large to get from one end to the other with a locker stop in between in five minutes, especially with the student hallway traffic and the parking lot traffic. The argument can be made, “just get to school earlier!” but for many students, this is easier said than done. Many parents and older siblings work and it is very important for them to be at their job on time, especially if they’re a low-income family. If this parent or sibling drives them and the ride isn’t the student’s full responsibility, they will be marked late.

The majority of detentions given out are due to tardiness. Students who one would never expect to receive detention have gotten them due to the policy. When people think of detentions, they normally think of a room full of students whose misbehavior needs to be corrected. For students who are just barely late, the behavior they are being punished for may be out of their control.

The consequences for being tardy are too harsh. Students can be marked tardy if they walk in as the bell is ringing. School should start later or students should be given more leniency in the morning. More students should join the handbook committee, which meets every spring, to voice their concerns and make changes to policies like this.

This story was updated at 11:40 AM on November 26, 2019 to clarify facts that may have been previously unclear.