By BRIANNA FORD

Almost everyone is aware of the new attendance policy that has impacted Stuart greatly: receiving 3 tardies or one unexcused absence results in detention on Monday, Wednesday, Friday or Saturday. As of Jan. 14, 2014, over 500 detentions have been issued, with 260 detentions served and 76 In School suspensions served.

Phase two of the attendance policy (in effect Feb. 3, 2013) requires:

  • All security personnel to carry instant detention slips for students in the hall without a pass. The administrative team will have the technology to quickly look up student’s identification numbers with schedules;
  • Each department to volunteer one common planning period per month to help do hall sweeps and give instant detention to students in the hall without a pass;
  • Unequivocal passes- students must have a pass with the teacher’s signature, date, and accurate time. Any hall pass for nine minutes or more will be deemed invalid;
  • The enforcement of the SR&R hat policy- hats in the hallways or classrooms will be confiscated; and
  • Alternate eating arrangements for students who participate in multiple lunch periods every day. Select students will have 10 minutes to get lunch and report to a different eating location. Students must have two weeks of perfect attendance to be considered for removal.

Phase three of the policy will be coming fourth quarter, and will include the confiscation of earphones in the hallway, due to FCPS’ safety policy. Students with earphones on or around their neck don’t always hear, or choose not to hear, when teachers address them. They may also miss important announcements, fire alarms or other warnings.

Coming to class and being on time are the minimal requirements for any student hoping to perform well in school. But what happens when the factors for a student being on time are out of their hands? Many students carpool, drive, ride the bus or are driven by parents to school. The arrival time for students isn’t always under their control. Traffic, car problems, weather, clogged hallways/parking lots and teachers holding kids after the bell rings all can be inevitable reasons for being a few minutes tardy. Several students each day will arrive at 7:12-7:15 and still be tardy to class due to the line of cars that sometimes backs all the way to Patrick Henry Drive. Parents who insist on dropping off their child wherever they desire, hold up the entire line, using up the few valuable minutes the student needs to get to class before the bell. Should walking in ten seconds after the bell rings for first period really be punishable by detention? And is detention the correct punishment? Sitting in a cafeteria for three hours is definitely not ideal, but it’s also unproductive. Students aren’t allowed to use laptops or cellular devices, which isn’t helpful as most homework, essays, and textbooks are online. If a student were to serve detentions with teachers they could get more work done and have help in subjects in which they’re struggling.

Last year, Principal Prosperanta Calhoun decided to alter the attendance policy. One of Calhoun’s goals for this year was to improve attendance tendencies. With the help of the administrators and Intervention Specialist, Tor S. Strom, they were able to come up with a policy that would hopefully improve attendance among students. “We feel the majority of students are going to class on time,” Strom says, “Comparing first and second quarters, we see a dramatic improvement.” Strom’s job as Intervention Specialist’s position is to be an advocate for students who need additional help succeeding. Working with students, counselors, parents and teachers in finding opportunities and resources to maximize academic success is a big part of Strom’s job. He has been blamed for much of the policy, which he comments, “What students may not know or understand is that the rest of the county is already enforcing all of these policies. Every rule that is now being strongly enforced is guided by FCPS policy.” Social Studies Department Chair Douglas Pielmeier agrees with Strom’s points. “I’m supportive and willing to help enforce the policy. I’m pleased that tardies have decreased and the hallways are clearer of students who need to be in class.”

Many students feel that the policy has not improved their, or others, attendance tendencies. Senior David Harrell says, “I do not think the new policy is working because kids continue to not go to class. They’ll skip regardless. Therefore it’s completely ineffective.”

In conclusion, students and teachers clearly differ in opinion on the issue. With more phases in the policy to come, only time will tell if the new attendance policy is doing what it was set out to do.