Tardy policy leads to truancies in first period

Kylie Yamada, Feature Editor

Senior Lewis Catapang has over 100 unexcused absences, but only five tardies. The reason? He has learned to work the system — the tardy system, that is.

It usually doesn’t take students long to figure out the inherent lack of common sense of the current tardy policy. Why risk a detention with a couple tardies when an unexcused absence results in few, if any, consequences?

Catapang’s attendance numbers fit the trend — the majority of his absences come from 1st period.

Compared to tardies, the consequences for unexcused absences are much less severe. Detentions are only assigned for tardies.

“For my absences, I’ve had people call me in for truancies [and] they send a letter to my parents,” Catapang said. “There hasn’t been any real consequences; they just talk to me.”

For the past few years, Bear Creek’s tardy policy has stayed relatively simple: two tardies in a semester results in an after-school detention.
However, beginning with the 2018-2019 school year, a newer, stricter policy will be in place. The policy is still being finalized, but the basics have formed.

In addition to after-school detention for every subsequent tardy after the 2nd, the school will hold lunch detentions, which will be mandatory for students who do not attend detention the previous day. The fourth tardy brings Positive Behavior Intervention, a meeting.

A major addition is social probation. Once students have accumulated five tardies, they will not be allowed to participate in any clubs, sports, dances, athletic matches or any ASB sanctioned activity for the remainder of the quarter. If the fifth tardy occurs in the final two weeks of the quarter, then social probation will continue into the next quarter.

One improvement is that teachers will be able to mark students as tardy from their computer, preventing the offenders from having to walk across campus and wait in line to get a slip of paper and missing even more class time.

However, the new policy does not address a major issue people take with the current system: detention.

After-school detention is intended to be undesirable, but many students have found a loophole to avoid it. Rather than risk missing club practice due to a detention, Bear Creek students may choose not to attend class. A build-up of unexcused absences will result in truancy letters and an inability to obtain an off-campus pass, but no detention. When people are running late, they often decide they might as well skip first period.

The belief is supported in data from the weeks of March 5 and March 26. The number of tardies from 1st to 6th period stay relatively constant; it remains in the range of 900 to 1,000 tardies. However, the number of absences drastically decreases after 1st period, from 447 down to 81 absences for 2nd period.

Additionally, there is a perceived lack of transparency within the enforcement of the policy. Officially, detentions have been the punishment for multiple tardies throughout the last several years. However, after-school detention has not been held for months.

“[The new] policy is aimed at our ‘frequent fliers’ or people who are continually abusing the time that is allotted to them on campus,” senior Rajan Nathaniel said. “Looking at the data, those individuals play sports, have clubs, want to go socialize with their peers at games. That is why we came up with the social probation aspect of the policy.”

As ASB President, Nathaniel has had an active role in forming the tardy policy, sitting in on several meetings with administration.
Enforcing punishment for truancy is much more difficult. And if the loophole isn’t closed, the district can expect to see more first period absences than tardies in the future.