Tardiness is an issue that affects high schools around the country and is especially prevalent at Payton. In the past, administration has tried to implement policies to discourage students from arriving late to advisory and to class. This year thus far there has been no tardy policy, but with the recent appointment of Mrs. Joella Birch as Dean of Students, administration plans to take another look at the attendance trends and come up with a new solution to encourage students to arrive at school on time.
In our view, punitive tardy policies unfairly disadvantage students who live farther away from school, those who live in areas with limited access to public transportation, or those who have familial obligations out of their control. For many students, arriving to school tardy is out of their control. The CTA is not the most reliable mode of transportation and can often result in delays. (There’s not much you can do if your bus that was due twenty minutes ago still hasn’t shown up.) There are some areas of the city, mostly those far away from Payton and the center of the city, where students must make multiple transfers between buses or trains to get to school. Moreover, if a student is late because they are in charge of getting their younger siblings to school, they should not be punished for making sure their siblings arrive at school safely. We believe that the implementation of a tardy policy would penalize these students who have no control over their circumstances, and therefore should not be put into place by the Payton administration. Payton is a school that is supposed to be inviting to students from all around the city with all types of familial situations; punitive tardy policies would prevent this from happening.
In 2017, Payton had a fairly strict tardy policy for students, especially for upperclassmen. Administration believed that the best consequence for repeated tardiness was to take away the privilege of off-campus lunch. For seniors, being tardy resulted in the temporary revocation of their daily ability to go off campus during their lunch period. For any other student, seven tardies meant no off-campus lunch during finals. Yet these consequences “didn’t even change student behavior that much,” Assistant Principal David Adamji told us. He also mentioned that “systems of consequences require lots of effort and management.” These policies can end up being more work than they are worth: Security has to work harder to make sure prohibited students don’t go off campus for lunch, and meanwhile students’ attendance habits do not improve.
Some may say that it is important for students to arrive at school by 8:00 a.m. because otherwise they will be missing key time in their classes. Yet while we can all agree that missing class can have detrimental effects on understanding of material and ability to perform well, a lot of the students who arrive tardy to school are only missing advisory, and often only part of advisory. Advisory, although considered instructional time by the school, is more of a space for students to prepare themselves for the day, watch the broadcast, and see their friends for a few minutes. It acts as a natural buffer for students who are running late; even if they are ten minutes late to school, they will not be missing a minute of class time. As a result, the argument that a more serious tardy policy would reduce the amount of class time students miss seems dubious, since advisory already does this.
We believe that there should be no consequences for morning tardiness because of the ways tardy policies promote inequity and have little effect on student behavior. Instead of trying to punish students, administration should work with students who are often tardy to understand what is making them late. This kind of support will allow Payton to be a school where students from around the city and from all backgrounds are comfortable. With the recent efforts to promote equity within the school, it is important that administration does not regress on that commitment by implementing a tardy policy that penalizes students who have no control over their circumstances.
To be sure, we do not suggest that there be no penalties for tardies or absences to classes throughout the school day. Needless to say, Payton should not exist in a state of anarchy, and students should not be allowed to ditch class with impunity. And most of the reasons we’ve cited not to have a morning tardy policy are simply not applicable to students who are, say, late getting to their fourth period class. That said, it’s also worth keeping in mind that Payton’s passing periods are fairly short. As we know from experience, a student who asks their teacher a question after the end-of-class bell rings might well have trouble getting to the following class right at the opening bell. So while we think consequences are justified for completely missing class (without an appropriate excuse), we would caution the school to continue providing some small leeway as to late arrivals to classes throughout the day.