Jul 28, 2014
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NKHS Student Says Tardy Policy Needs Rethinking

"Does the punishment fit the crime?" asks Grace Callahan, a junior at NKHS.

NKHS Student Says Tardy Policy Needs Rethinking

The following is a letter by Grace Callahan, a junior at North Kingstown High School

I am a junior living North Kingstown, and after my three years of attending North Kingstown Senior High School, I have become increasingly concerned with our school’s policy regarding tardiness.

If a student is late to school without a valid excuse, like a doctor’s appointment, he or she is marked tardy for the day. After three tardies (on the fourth one), the student receives an after-school detention as punishment. After a one-hour detention, if the student is late for a fifth time, they receive a two-hour detention, and after that, the punishment becomes in-school suspension. 

These detentions are scheduled for every Tuesday and Thursday; the days that most teachers stay after school to give extra help. They interfere with extra-curricular activities involving the school, but they also disrupt the daily routines and plans that families have tediously made. 

What my main concern is: does the punishment fit the crime? Part of North Kingstown’s mission statement reads: “With the help and engagement of our staff, families, and community members, our students will attain the sills, strategies, and knowledge necessary to be prepared for their college and career choices and ultimately their roles in society,” 

As a teenager who has a job at a local ice cream shop, I know first-hand, as do most adults, that being late to work is something that negatively affects your coworkers and subsequent environment, but most importantly reflects poorly on your character as an individual. If I’m late to work, my boss is not going to keep me after, wasting the time that we both could be using to be productive. If you’re late to a college lecture, it is likely the professor will lock the door, rendering your hard-earned money spent for that class useless. 

So how is this punishment system at NK, after-school detentions and eventual suspension for tardiness, helping students attain the skills and knowledge necessary to be prepared for college and career choices, as the mission statement so clearly states? Incidents like that do not accurately reflect the punishment we are receiving at school, and isn’t that the whole point?

Our job as students is to take advantage of all the opportunities we’re given and learn to the best of our ability; high school exists to shape our behavior, sculpting us into successful students, employees, and citizens. However, there is a clear disconnect between unfavorable behavior and resulting consequences. Our current punishment system has not deterred students from being tardy every quarter, and in my opinion, has caused more trouble for the faculty and students then it has corrected behavior. 

In no way am I condoning being tardy or disregarding a student’s personal responsibility to be on time, but I propose reform. I think before-school detention, lunch detention, or clean-up duty with our already busy custodians would best benefit the students and the staff, while also discouraging kids from being late again. I truly believe if we, students and faculty, collaborate to create a better system, it will positively affect all involved. Thank you.

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