Tardiness is a growing problem in American schools. “The U. S. Department of Education, in the latest available report, shows that tardiness is a moderate to a serious problem . . . ” (Light, 2006) When students arrive late to class, not only do they miss out on instruction, but they interrupt their teacher and fellow students when they come into class late. The problem goes beyond interruptions and missing instruction. When students habitually show up late, it sends a message that school is not a priority for them. It shows irresponsibility and lack of respect.
By allowing students to arrive late without consequences, students are being set up to fail once they enter the workplace where punctuality is a requirement. Marymount International School Rome has a tardy policy that shares similarities with Hillsborough County Schools District. Both policies allow the student one free tardy. Both policies also have more serious consequences as the number of tardies grow. Another similarity is that tardy infractions are handled by the assistant principal. The similarities end there.
Interestingly, MMI’s policy is quite a bit more specific than Hillsborough County, which is relatively general and left to the discretion of the assistant principal in regards to consequences. MMI clearly differentiates between late to class and late to school. Students arriving late to school are given a certain number of excused tardies because of traffic, a major issue in Rome. Once a student arrives late to first period five times or late to any other periods two times, that student is assigned a morning detention by the assistant principal.
The assistant principal checks period attendance for students marked tardy and assigns the tardy detention. In order for the punishment to fit the crime, so-to-speak, the detentions must be served before school begins. This in effect means students are to arrive to school 45 minutes before they would otherwise arrive. Once a student accrues 10 tardies, he must serve one day of in-school-suspension, and the parents must come in for a conference with the assistant principal. Hillsborough County tardy policy calls for the teacher to issue warnings to the student for the first tardy.
On the second tardy, the parent is supposed to be called by the teacher. The teacher refers the student to the assistant principal for disciplinary action on the third tardy. Consequences vary by school according to the school’s individual improvement plan. The strength of MMI’s tardy policy is that it allows for traffic problems. It is essential for the policies of a school to be in tune with its community. Italy also has a very lax attitude to punctuality. The policy gives enough free tardies to account for traffic and then six more before any serious consequences.
This is a good meld between adapting to the culture of the Italians and the needs of the school to create responsible, punctual students. A major weakness of the policy is that it is extremely difficult to regulate. Tardiness is such a profound problem that corralling the tardy students and assigning detentions takes up a large part of the assistant principal’s time. The strength of Hillsborough County’s policy is its flexibility in determining consequences. Another strength is that the teachers are responsible for their students so it takes a load off the assistant principal.
A weakness is that since it is left up to the teachers, many teachers do not refer tardy students. Some teachers may be very strict when it comes to tardies, but other teachers may not be strict at all. This inconsistency detracts from the school’s learning atmosphere. The tardy policies in both situations reflect the corresponding school vision. Holding students accountable for getting to class on time encourages responsibility on the part of the student. Making sure students are in class and engaged from bell to bell means students are exposed to instruction the maximum amount of time.
The goal is to develop students into responsible, educated adults. The tardy policy of MMI clearly is in tune with the culture and diversity of its students. It takes into account the terrible traffic and the Italian’s perception of punctuality. The Hillsborough County policy is not at odds with the diversity of its population either. Since the students are provided with free bus service, there is no discrimination involved when determining who is late. Both policies are practical and cannot be tied to race or gender. Late is late. On time is on time.
The principal for Center Academy stated they also have a strict tardy policy. Consequences are left to the discretion of the principal but generally are after school detentions. The goal of the consequence is that it is inconvenient for the students. When their friends are leaving school to go hang out with their friends, they must remain to serve their detention. Mr. Steve Hicks thinks the consequence actually becomes a deterrent to future tardies. Principal Pete Kennedy believes the tardy policy at MMI has greatly reduced the number of student tardies but feels that it has not come close to ending the tardy problem.
In sum, schools will always have students who arrive late to class. That’s a given. Schools, however, must work hard to put policies in place that discourage students from being late and instill in them the values of responsibility and punctuality. I believe I would change Hillsborough County’s policy to make it more consistent from teacher to teacher by increasing the role of the assistant principal. I would also increase the role of the teacher at MMI to take some of the burden off of the assistant principal. Somewhere between the two systems is a viable tardy policy.