On Thursday, September 23rd, Mrs. Russell, the attendance secretary at Frontier, came on the morning news to announce that the school will be reinstituting a rule on tardiness. After being tardy to school four times, you will receive a detention, and you will be given another detention for every tardy after that. The student handbook states that after 6 offenses you will have to attend a half-day in-school suspension for each tardy and seniors will lose their senior privileges. Many students and parents wonder if this newly enforced rule will truly affect timeliness or if it is counterproductive.
I was lucky enough to find a bright pink detention slip in my mailbox in late September, so I put this question to the test.
On Thursday, September 30th, I walked into the cafeteria along with 15 other students, all of them also being there due to tardiness. For the next hour, we sat quietly at the lunch tables, doing homework, listening to music, or just sitting staring off into space. After the hour was up, I talked to some students about their experiences. Many felt as though the cafeteria wasn’t a good/productive learning environment so it was hard to get work done, and they would end up having to stay up later that evening to finish. Other students had to miss important things such as sports practice, taking care of siblings, and work, which only led to more stress. After seeing how many students were impacted by this rule, I asked myself, why does school start so early in the first place? If we truly want to reduce tardiness, maybe the school day shouldn’t start at 7:50. Studies show that later start times reduce the number of students getting tardies, getting in car accidents, and falling asleep in class.
Two High Schools in our neighboring districts changed their start times at the beginning of this school year. Amherst High School changed its hours from 7:45-2:00 to 9:00-3:35 while Northampton High School changed its hours from 7:30-2 to 9:00-3:30. These districts had been considering these changes for years, and during the pandemic made the switch. COVID made many people aware of how important it is to prioritize not just the physical but mental health of students, and how the two go hand in hand. In a study done by the University of Rochester Medical Center, they found that earlier school start times may increase the risk of adolescent depression and anxiety. Teenagers with school start times before 8:30 a.m. may be at a higher risk of experiencing depression and anxiety due to compromised sleep quality.
I talked to students from each school to get their opinions on the recent change. They both agreed that they enjoy getting to sleep in later the morning before school. They also acknowledged that there are many cons to this new schedule. A student from Northampton high school said, “Although it’s nice in the morning, it can be hard in the afternoon. A lot of students have to quit their afterschool jobs because after-school activities (sports and clubs) usually don’t end until 6 or later, which is hard if they bring an income to their families. Also, some parents who work can no longer bring their kids into school in the mornings and have to pay for the bus.” This poses yet another financial burden. A student at Amherst had a similar experience. She said, “It has gotten rid of after-school help which has made it hard if you need help in class. It also impacts people who play sports because they have to leave their last period early to get to games.” Since after-school activities start later, they end later, meaning kids get home and get to sleep later. This forms a cycle, making people wonder if kids with this later start time are really benefiting.
While administrators often believe that punishment is a positive form of corrective discipline, it has shown to have negative consequences including higher levels of stress and anxiety. Frontier should be promoting active, not passive discipline, and the line for tardiness being backed up to the front entrance doesn’t help the case that this new rule is beneficial. That being said, getting detention for tardiness or starting school at 9 are not the only solutions to tardiness. Perhaps there’s a happy medium, like an 8:15 start time, or maybe there is no answer to the issues posed, without looking at it from the state/federal level. Why are we required to be at school for 6.5 hours? Why is our workload so heavy? The list goes on.