¨It’s better not to come than being late;¨ students question the effectiveness of lunch detention

Linda Hayner

Your car breaks down two blocks from the school and it is already 7:45 a.m. As students rush the halls of school, the bell rings obnoxiously. Out of breath you make it to class late by two minutes. Your teacher marks you tardy during attendance and sends you to the office. Commonly, in most schools an unexcused absence or multiple tardies will result in a warning or a detention during lunch.

The DHS student handbook states:¨There are no excused tardies,¨ but then goes on to say that, ¨a student detained by another teacher or administrator shall not be considered tardy provided that the teacher or administrator gives the student a pass to enter the next class. Teachers shall honor passes presented in accordance with this policy.¨

The school district defines being tardy as, ¨the appearance of a student without proper excuse after the scheduled time that a class begins.¨ The district never states that there are ¨no excused tardies¨ and only goes on to state if a teacher is holding a student they are not considered late.

The disciplinary procedure in the handbook states, ¨Students who are tardy to class will report to the office. On the third trady offense students will be assigned to lunch detention. Habitual tardiness will require a parent meeting and may also warrant lunch study hall to make up time missed in class due to tardiness.¨

DHS attendance advocate, Tamara Astin, has estimated that there are about 80 to 100 students late to at least one class weekly. For approximately 60 to 75 of those students, it is their third through sixth time being late, which in turn is a referral to assistant principal Roseann Johnson.

Astin has also estimated that during the two lunch periods at DHS, there are six to seven students in detention each lunch, daily. Astin believes that three to four of these students will turn to it being their sixth or more offense.By Linda Hayner

¨I get a list of students who were late and I call them to the office and just talk to them. Most students have actual reasons like having to help get their siblings ready for school and they just couldn’t make it in time to their first hour,¨ said Johnson. ¨We expect mistakes but we also expect students to own up to it.¨

According to principal Derek Carlson, detentions for tardies are effective. ¨About 90 percent or more of students fix the problem themselves. There are very minimal phone calls to a parent or guardian,¨ said Carlson. ¨We are here to be helpful, not to just make students feel like we are putting them down.¨

Being late is a common issue. If you are injured and on crutches you might be late to some of your classes, like Allyssa Leib. ¨This school year I broke my leg. I was on crutches for the first time ever and I was like a lot slower than everyone else in the hallway. Plus the hallways are really crowded. So I was like three minutes late to my class because my classes are so spread out,¨ said Leib. ¨Most of my teachers understood. I don´t think that I was ever marked tardy because crutches are a little bit harder to get around on.¨

DHS freshman student, Tyrrell Garcia, says he has the issue of being late often.  ¨I think it was around ten times when I last checked,¨ said Garcia. ¨Just my first hour, mainly sometimes it would be not getting out of the house in time because my parents weren’t ready.¨

Garcia believes that detentions are effective depending on one thing. ¨I would say yes detentions are effective. I think it is because I´m getting better with it now. I guess it really just depends on the student,¨ said Garcia.

Junior, Aneida Sanchez, has a reason for being late quite often. ¨Well, I´m mostly late to my first class and it’s usually because I have to pick up my cousins that live on the other side of town, and then take them to the middle school. Then I have to drive back to this side. It’s just a lot,¨ said Sanchez. ¨Or like, for example, today, you can’t find any parking.¨

Sanchez has a belief that the DHS detention policy is not effective. ¨ If they’re going to give us like a consequence for being late, a lot of people just don’t show up to school if they’re already like running late,¨ said Sanchez. ¨Sometimes it’s just better not to come than being late for a reason.¨

Another DHS student, Joel Martinez, is “chronically” late for helping his little brother get to school on time, even when they start later than the high school. ¨Well I have to drop my brother off at school every morning and he’s very stubborn when he wakes up, so he doesn´t get ready,¨ said Martinez. ¨Then by the time he’s already ready, I have ten minutes to get here. Since he doesn’t start school till 8:30 a.m, he doesn’t worry about the time.¨

According to K12Engagement, ¨Some evidence exists that detention does decrease future problem behavior for certain students. At the very least, many students perceive detention as aversive and as an effective discipline practice.¨ 

Yet Martinez believes the consequence for being late is not effective. ¨It is because I’m getting punished for taking my brother to school and then getting here late,¨ said Martinez. ¨It’s just very dumb that it can´t be excused or anything like that and its just not effective.¨

English teacher Robert Ames believes that being on time is a very important thing for students to learn. ¨I think that being on time is a huge, huge thing. I think it is very important. I think that to value other people’s time is a strong characteristic,¨ said Ames. ¨Now I understand that people are late, everybody is late. I think that the idea of having a student who´s habitually tardy serve detention, I think that’s a smart move. Im understanding if they communicate, because I think that’s the other part of the habit.¨

Math teacher, Rene Cronenberg, is not lenient when it comes to a student being late unless they explain their situation. ¨If they are walking through the door, I don’t give them a tardy, but if they can’t be here ready to go, I give them a tardy,¨ said Cronenberg. ¨We have conversations mainly before school; Who brings you? Can you not get up earlier? And for most it’s like, yeah, I’m just pretty lazy. If they were legit like, they had to work at it, I would take that into consideration.¨

History teacher at DHS, Paul Shean, believes that the detention policy is not effective. ¨Effective? No. I think most times when people are tardy, they are repeat offenders. You know five minutes is an awful lot of time between classes,¨ said Shean. ¨I think there’s plenty of time to do what you need to do, but there needs to be probably more teeth into it for it to be more consistent.¨

Being late is common not just in schools. People can be late due to work, appointments or even to traffic being slow. The district gives the school the freedom to appropriately judge and excuse tardy students. The effectiveness of a detention depends on the student themselves and the way students communicate their problems with their principal and teachers.