Yorktown Adopts New Attendance Policy Among Increasing Rates of Tardiness

Matthew Wagner and Elijah Dale

In response to increasing rates of tardiness at our school, students arriving after 8:19 a.m. have been stopped by administrators and given detention passes as they enter the school building. This is part of a new policy which began May 5.

Upon receiving the passes, students are expected to attend detention for one hour after school the following Tuesday or Thursday. While parents may excuse their student’s absence, skipping detention results in further disciplinary action. 

“[The new attendance protocol] is just the culmination of an epidemic of lateness this year,” Advanced Placement World History teacher Ryan Zito said. 

Many teachers take issue with the increased tardiness, finding it disrespectful and disruptive. Additionally, they believe consistently missing class can lead to students falling behind in their courses.

In recent years, teachers across our school have implemented various policies disciplining students for tardiness in their classrooms. For example, several teachers require late students to attend a lunch detention the day of their tardy. Others request students participate in class virtually for the remainder of the period so as not to disrupt the classroom. Some teachers take an indifferent approach, choosing not to establish consequences at all.

Others believe the task of disciplining late students should not fall onto individual teachers, and have grown increasingly frustrated with our school’s administrators over a lack of schoolwide late policies. 

By early April, many staff were frustrated by the administration’s inaction. On April 6, teachers protested by sending all late students to the front office, hoping to send a message. Among those involved was English Teacher Kelly Dillon.

“After teachers organized [against the policy], I think the administration was taken off guard, and it caused a big disruption,” Dillon said.

Administrators got the message. They soon met with various staff, requesting feedback to build a tardy policy. On April 29, they announced the new policy in Principal Kevin Clark’s ‘SchoolTalk’ newsletter. 

The new policy did not come without criticism, however. Many administrators and staff support the blanket policy, hoping it would help eliminate social biases due to inequitable discipline. Others argue it has the potential to exacerbate equity issues and removes human discussion and reasoning in the disciplinary process.

“I think arriving late to school is somewhat out of students’ control. It depends on your ride, your parents, if you’re having to get to school yourself, or if you’re caring for siblings. There’s potential for inequity in that,” Dillon said.

Many carpool to school, causing them to rely on other students, while others take public transportation. Several students believe one-time accidents not in students’ control should go unpunished.

Because of this, among other reasons, many students and teachers endorse a three-strike attendance policy as an alternative. Under such a rule, students would be given a detention or lunch detention upon their third tardy to a class, regardless of the class period. They argue this would give students an opportunity to change their behavior and avoid punishments for one-time tardies.

“I think it is important … that students have a chance to fix the behavior. By having a [strike] system, students are given that chance,” Zito said. 

A three-strike policy is not out of the question for attendance policies next year. Because the administration was rushing to create a policy which discourages tardiness and aiming to respond quickly to frustrated teachers, Clark claims the current policy has room for improvement.

“It won’t look exactly like [the current policy]. But, we’ll have something in place. I want it to be strategic and use the data we have and try to get to the root cause of the issue rather than having something that just addresses the symptom. We’ve got work to do” Clark said. 

For now, Clark hopes to end the school year on a high note, with on-time attendance. So far, he believes, the policy is helping to accomplish as much.