NKHS Student Says Tardy Policy Needs Rethinking

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

North Kingstown High School (Patch file photo)
North Kingstown High School (Patch file photo)

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.

underwhelmed May 28, 2014 at 04:35 PM
@Grace--As an employer I agree I would not keep you late at work. But after a few repeated transgressions and warnings I would fire you. Compass Carrier is correct this is just a little sample of what the bad old real world will do if you aren't a responsible person. News flash nobody really cares if you like it or not there are simply consequences and rightly so! @Resident--BooHoo in the real world (known as working and making a living) pushing the limit is a given in today's very competitive environment. Ask someone who works two jobs to keep their family fed and pay their bills how hitting the wall feels to them. Maybe you will win the lottery so you won't have to push--good luck!
Mike Jackson May 29, 2014 at 11:26 AM
If they can't make it to school on time, how are they going to make it to school EARLY to serve a detention?
Dark star May 29, 2014 at 10:27 PM
Welcome to the real world Grace Callahan. If you can't do the time then don't do the crime. I do like your thinking in regards to different forms of punishment. I think you will get some pushback from administration regrading the idea of helping janitors since they are unionized and unions do not like anyone doing their work. The bottom line is wherever you go, school or work, there will e rules and you will need to comply or suffer the consequences.
Joe Smith May 31, 2014 at 02:27 PM
In fairness, with the much earlier start time (earliest in the state? ), it seems more kids and parents are driving and there is almost always a backlog on A-Q road and that intersection. The HS was not constructed with the amount of high volume traffic in mind. Grace - do you have statistics if the number of tardies and detentions are up proportionally (you can ask the principal I would assume) -- that would be useful to know. After a couple of years now, the district should reevaluate whether the start times are problematic - I know it is also not good to have elementary schools bouncing off the walls at 8 am and school not starting for them until 915.


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