New attendance policy will not fix current issues

Most people, if not all, would agree that being late to any important event should carry punishment. If you don’t arrive on time to your job interview, then expect to not get the job, and the school administration certainly agrees after seeing the changes to the attendance and tardy policy. Contrary to their mission (to keep students from skipping class), the new attendance policy is a huge over-correction that has already begun to affect students in a negative way.

For instance, take the case of junior Damian Spaulding. Two weeks ago he fell ill and stayed home from school on that Monday. Unfortunately his parents had never called him in as being sick and the school marked him as absent 6 times that day – one per hour. When he returned to school the following day he was shocked as he was handed a detention slip, assigned to him through factors he could not change and had no control over.

The new school attendance policy is so strict that it would be surprising if half of the school could never break it. On the official school website it states “After three unexcused absences students,parents and guardians will receive a call or letter from the school to assist in problem-solving and notification of the next steps”. In other words, it’s a three-strikes-and-you’re-out system.

Damian said, “And if I don’t go to my detention, I’ll have to go to YCAP… Being given detention is a fair punishment, but it shouldn’t be given for circumstances that we have zero control over.”

Being given detention is a fair punishment, but it shouldn’t be given for circumstances that we have zero control over.

— Damian Spaulding

But the school’s standards as what counts as a “reasonable / unreasonable absence” gives the exact opposite impression that many students may have. Again on the school website does one find the borders drawn by school administration. Listed under “Unexcused Absences” are plenty of reasonable things such as simply leaving campus without staff permission or being late for something as idiotic as sleeping in late. There are a few points listed that need intense questioning and serious discussion.

Specifically, attention will be called to these two points: “Skipping class/leaving campus without following proper procedure” and “Needed at home/babysitting”. Out of the entire list of things that warrant a tardy being issued, these two points seem the most ridiculous of them all – or at least the ones most worth mentioning.

So if simply leaving campus without “following proper procedure” counts as truant behavior, then what would happen in the instance where the student did everything right and the school staff misplaced the information? Or what about cases like Spaulding where his parents made one simple error? Should that be the precedent set for every parent who doesn’t realize that they forgot one minute detail? It is difficult to justify how simply forgetting to communicate to the school staff should result in a tardy being given or even a detention being issued.

And then there is being “needed at home”. If the previous point had a lot of grey area and room for error, then this point is downright insulting to the student. Being needed at home is now a punishable offense?

Students in the past have had to stay at home to take care of sick family members or work jobs to make sure rent is paid. Under the school’s definition of what counts as being absent for inexcusable reasons, these dire circumstances are on the same level as not setting your alarm clock.

It makes no difference how often these circumstances come up counting a student who is needed to make sure their family stays together as being a reason to give out a detention slip is nothing short of awful.

It isn’t as if the attendance policy doesn’t have any upsides, however. There is a need to have an attendance policy, if only to make sure each student is continually attending their education. It helps make sure that everyone is accounted for and that no one has gone missing for some strange reason.

Saying that the school’s current policy is an over-correction is like stating that the sky is blue. It has already begun to affect students, and especially not for the better. Because of it, more students who have done no wrong are being given detention slips – and the trend won’t let up any time soon. On top of being cloudy and poorly worded at times, it’s simply impossible to expect the bulk of students to get to school or class on time with only two free chances to fail at doing so. If school staff and administration expect this to change, they need to revise the current policy first.