South administration cracks down on tardy students

By Jesse Zhang
Published: September 2009

South has adopted a new attendance policy in an attempt to encourage students to arrive to class on time.

An A-Block lateness pilot, stating that lateness to first block classes will only be excused by a note from a doctor or dentist or tardiness of a school bus, will last until the end of the first semester. Lateness later in the day will only be excused by a bona fide note, phone call, or email from a parent.

According to Faculty Council member and English Teacher Robert Jampol, the Faculty Council, a group of 12 teachers led by History Teacher Robert Parlin, met with the Housemasters last year to clarify a proposal to crack down on students who are habitually arriving to school late. The policy met widespread approbation in an all-faculty meeting, and Principal Joel Stembridge adopted it as school policy at the beginning of the 2009-2010 year.

The Faculty Council, which filters issues sent by faculty members, has been receiving several complaints regarding late students. Wheeler Housemaster Josepha Blocker said that Housemasters had investigated the issue at the time but thought it would be unfair to implement a rule in the middle of the school year.

“[The attendance policy] had grown looser and looser [over the years]. More and more students started showing up late for the first block of the day, Jampol said; he has worked at South for 29 years.

Jampol, who teaches both A and B clocks, believes punctuality is better for a student’s education. The policy, he notes, has consequences only for students who show consistent tardiness.

“The policy has been fantastic so far, Jampol said. “Almost none of my first-block students show up late anymore.

Blocker remembers how some students often came in late with an excuse from parents before the policy was in place. She found excuses harder to believe, however, when students came in with Dunkin Donuts.

According to Blocker, students also tended to leave in the middle of the day and parents would call in later to excuse their child. The school’s new policy reinforces the rule that students must check out of their house office before leaving the school.

“Our ultimate goal is that kids are here to take advantage to the educational opportunities here, Blocker said.

Housemaster Henry Turner believes that the policy is working for “frequent offenders, but he is unsure how well it’s working for the school as a whole.

Housemasters have the right to overrule or excuse absences if the student or parent provides a legitimate reason.

School administration has also expressed concern over how students will be affected by the new A-Block tardiness policy.

“We want to make sure [the new SMS system] is actually working before we start putting N’s on people’s transcripts, Stembridge said.

In previous years, students tended to have parents excuse them from classes’€or even school’€to finish homework, study for tests, or catch up on sleep. With the new policy, students who choose to make such calculated decisions will be more heavily penalized, and students who are ill need to provide a doctor’s note to their house offices.

“The N policy is fair because school starts at the same time every day, senior Abby Needleman said. “It makes no sense for someone to be late every single day.

Needleman feels that an occasional tardy due to inconveniences such as traffic is understandable, but in general there is no reason a student should be late to first block all the time.

Some students feel that the inevitable traffic in the morning makes getting to class on time difficult.

“We are expected to stay up late working on homework every night after getting home late from extracurriculars, junior Brooks Remy said. “Then we have to wake up extremely early and wait in traffic because of the terrible layout of the school’s roads.

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