Attendance policy aims to keep students in class

By By Jon Sosner, Staff Writer


 The bell rings. There are three questions left on the social studies exam. After staying two minutes late finishing the last questions, the teacher won’t issue a pass, causing a tardy for the next class. With the new tardy policy, this could mean that being late to class can now get the average student in some serious trouble.

After MCPS eliminated the Loss of Credit policy this year, the administration created a new policy, making incidents such as the one mentioned above, a more serious offense than they were in the past. The purpose is to prevent students from skipping class and intentionally being late to their classes.

According to the 2010-2011 Student Handbook, the first unexcused tardy warrants a warning from the teacher and a detention. On the second offense the teacher contacts the parents and assigns a detention, and on the third offense the teacher refers the student to an administrator, who then decides on a consequence. The first two unexcused absences result in parental contact, a detention and a zero for all assignments given that day. For the third offense, the teacher will go to an administrator who will then decide a punishment.

However, the unexcused absence policy was changed the first week of school, after teachers found the procedures too time consuming.

According to assistant principal Jan Fisher, the current policy is as follows: If a student is absent on the day of an assessment, teachers will assign a grade of Z. If the absence is excused, then the student can make up the assessment. If the absence is unexcused, then the grade will be changed to a “0.” In addition, teachers will refer the student to the grade level administrator on the first offense and thereafter. The administrator will then assign consequences. Fisher stressed that this school year is a “transition year” with the new policy.

The new policies have become controversial this year, and have sparked debate.

“The new [policies] are confusing and unclear, and I haven’t met a teacher or student who has even the faintest idea of what they [are supposed to] do,” senior Sam Gross said.

Though many students question the new policy, administration feels strongly that by missing school due to numerous unexcused absences, students are only hurting themselves.

According to Principal Joan Benz, the punishments are not to harass the students, or make their lives miserable, but to teach them a lesson about being on time.

“The students who are responsible, mature and value their education would be in class. The [biggest] consequence [of being tardy] is that you are missing valuable class time,” Benz said. “If there is a small number of students who have difficulty following these rules, we will support them in getting to class, we expect everyone to play their role.”