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  • Brady Woodhouse

Students React to Stricter Enforcement of Late Policy

Students wait in line to go through security / Credit: Sara Weinrod

Upon arriving at school late, some students have been lucky enough to hear the click of the intercom and the familiar announcement: “Please do not mark students tardy until 9:20 due to train delays.” Most of the time, however, students do not receive such a reprieve.

Many students have recently noticed a difference in the administration’s handling of tardiness. Now, students who arrive late must add their names to a list, possibly resulting in a stint in lunch detention. This level of enforcement is new for Walls, which previously has relied very little, if at all, on detention as a disciplinary measure.

Walls administration stated, however, that policies around lateness haven’t changed. Rather, tardy students are noticing a renewed enforcement effort. Attendance counselor Wanda Jones-Hinnant said, “there is no new late policy, but we have to keep track of students with consistent truancy.” At this point in the school year, determining which students are chronically late becomes easier, informing administration decisions.

Students have begun to notice the increased attendance enforcement. While students generally recognize the importance of punctuality, seeing it as a matter of respect for teachers and their classes, some feel blindsided. One student said, “I don’t think it’s fair to make these changes without telling us.”

Other students are concerned that the policy is inequitable to students who experience consistent barriers at home that affect their attendance, “especially for the kids who have trouble getting to school because of problems at home or the kids who can’t always get to school the same way each day.” The students seemed to agree that there was a link between tardiness and barriers at home. For example, a late-evening work shift, a heated argument between family members, and unsafety in one’s neighborhood all may interfere with a student’s punctuality on a long-term basis.

Meanwhile, administration responds that the late policy tries to account for and help students with those barriers to arriving on time. “We can’t help that your car broke down or that there are bus delays, and we will excuse those,” Ms. Jones-Hinnant said. She continued, “No matter, students with [a 504 accommodation plan], a headache, or bad time management, you have to show up to school on time.” She added that the school psychologist, Dr. Lori McDowell, “has a time management class” to help students arrive to school by 9 AM.

Ms. Jones-Hinnant also talked about the importance of building good habits and planning ahead, especially once students leave high school. “If you can predict trouble with getting to school then you need to plan for it because you won’t get a second chance in the corporate world,” she said

While students stressed the importance of flexibility for those with attendance barriers, they also understood that the school cannot simply ignore chronic tardiness. One student commented, “we can’t give out free passes all the time though because, first, students who don’t actually have any reason not to get to school on time will just take advantage of that, and second, that’s only a bandaid for students who really need help at home.”

Administration made clear that the late policy is not a means of punishment. “If students show up at 9:02, we make them sign the list just so they know and are uncomfortable with being late. It’s the students who are consistent[ly tardy] that we have to give lunch detention,” Ms. Jones-Hinnant said.

Students have also noted that lunch detention punishment is not always enforced. One student boldly said, “I can usually sweet talk my way out of it.” This forgiving nature of administration underscores that the policy was not made to punish students but to offer a reminder that lateness comes with consequences in the real world.

Enforcement of the late policy is rather about preparing students for life after high school. “I just pray some of these students never have a 9 AM [college] class because they will be locked out and get a zero for that day,” she explained.

Although students may not be thrilled with the increased enforcement of on-time arrival to school, students and administration can still come to an understanding on tardiness. As one student said, “admin isn’t out to get us.”


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