Editorials and Opinions

Impracticality of the attendance policy

By Alice Lee
Published: September 2009

There have doubtless been many articles on this same topic before mine, and there will doubtless be more after. But it’s an issue of fundamental importance to student, teacher, and administration alike: attendance policy’€or, more specifically, tardiness.

The infamous new rule passed by the Faculty Council states that all tardies to first block will, as a rule, not be excused unless a bus was late or a doctor’s or dentist’s note proves that there was a medical reason for the tardy.

That is, guilty until proven innocent. Which in itself is not a new concept in terms of lateness, but the new policy won’t excuse a first block tardy for anything less than medical documentation.
What’s more, in another policy, teachers have been instructed not to tolerate lateness to classes during the rest of the day. Notes from parents for “bona fide reasons’€medical, legal, familial, or religious in nature’€will be accepted, but class-to-class lateness is strictly verboten. Benefit of the doubt has been wholly eradicated.

The logic behind strict punctuality is evident and fair enough. A set time of commencement and ending promotes the order of the schoolroom; time in class should be maximized for optimal learning time; punctuality is a prized quality in potential job candidates, and we should get into the habit early; the list goes on.

As with most things in life, however, strict application of logic isn’t sufficient criteria for the issue of tardiness. The elementary reasoning behind strict enforcement of A-Block attendance is, I assume, that students have unlimited time before school begins. That we have a vast expanse of hours before 7:40′€uninterrupted by sleep, breakfast, personal hygiene, parents’ schedules, traffic, or parking’€whose sole purpose is getting us to school.

Punishing students for situations beyond their control will naturally
breed resent.

Regretfully, this reasoning must be refuted on the grounds that traffic patterns can admittedly be forecasted but not predicted down to the minute, that some students rely for transportation on others who are just as human as the rest of us, and that family or other non-medical emergencies often have the audacity to happen in the morning and not conveniently after A-Block.

It needs to be understood that there’s a world outside the school in which time-consuming variables over which students have no control can and will appear in the morning’€time-consuming variables that are not necessarily limited to the medical category.

As for class-to-class lateness’€seeing as teachers reserve the right to hold students after class, that running is highly unwise, and that the second floor of Goodwin isn’t connected to the second floor of Goldrick (meaning that travel between the two entails stumbling down the stairs at breakneck speed, race-walking through the 9000s, down the breezeway, through Wheeler House, and sprinting up more stairs), I should think that a little understanding is in order.

Students in general are perfectly aware that there are good reasons behind the enforcement of punctuality. It is, after all, a principle that’s drilled into everyone’s mind from a tender age: be on time, or suffer the consequences.

But when there are unavoidable obstacles of which the administration is perfectly aware’€such as the sheer size of Newton South, the insistence of some teachers on continuing past the bell, the length of passing period’€one is forced to break the rules.

Punishing students for situations beyond their control will naturally breed resent, which has no place in a classroom. And antagonizing a roomful of teenagers with whom a teacher spends as much as four hours a week is an overall poor decision.

It’s true that compassion on the part of the administration towards some of the examples I’ve given will probably result in a few opportunists who will take advantage of the leniency and worm their way out of a deserved unexcused tardy.

There will always be a minority. You can crack down and punish a few innocents who have good reasons for their lateness along with the guilty, or you can relax the reins a little and let a few get away along with letting the innocent go.

Read more

Like it? Share it!


Copyright © Denebola | The Official School Newspaper of Newton South High School | 140 Brandeis Road, Newton, MA 02459.
Site designed by Chenzhe Cao.