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What's up with the tardy sweeps?

Art by Renee Modina


Being a few minutes late to class has never cost you more than it does now. With the new tardy sweeps, the school hopes to encourage better attendance and lower the overall tardy rate by 20% before the coming December. It’s three strikes and you're out. With one tardy, you get a warning. With two, a phone call home, and with three—detention. Initially, this was all a little bit of a shock. Now, students don’t have any room to be even marginally late to class, as it will result in “reflection time”. Most students have taken the con side of this argument, saying that more class time is lost when going to the cafeteria as opposed to arriving a few minutes late. On the other hand, a majority of teachers argue that this will teach kids how to manage their time, and that they won’t be as likely to arrive late anymore. Both sides of this debate have very strong points and interesting ideas about how this situation is going to work out, so I decided to explore the most prominent opinions from students, teachers, and staff.

“It’s just plain annoying,” says 10th grader Aubrey, who got tardy swept on the second day. “My class was right down the hallway.” She goes on to talk about how she had already checked into her class, and told her teacher she was going to the restroom, but it ended in her being swept anyway. “I don’t see the point of this,” she adds. “It will only make kids later.” Her friend, 9th grader Amara, disagrees.

“I think this will make the kids who are always being annoyingly late to class know better,” she says to Aubrey with a slight frown. “They disrupt everyone. Eight minutes is enough time to get to your class.”

(They then proceeded to argue about it…)

It’s clear from this that your opinion is heavily dependent on the experiences you’ve had with the sweeps so far. If you're someone who is often on time or early to class in the first place, this doesn’t affect you, but for the kids who like to take their time, well, that's a different story.

“100%,” says 8th grader Amelie when asked if the communication methods of the sweeps are too dramatic. “If they didn’t make it so intimidating, maybe more people would be willing to comply.”

Based on the 40 kids I asked, only about 1 in 5 think that the tardy sweeps will help the school work towards better attendance, and the rest are convinced that this will just push kids to find ways of being even sneakier. “It won’t end well,” says one kid, Jonah. “It will not end well.”

It isn’t just students that are hesitant about all of this, but teachers as well. “My kids have always been very good with time,” shrugs 8th-grade science teacher Ms. Ramos. “The only bad part now is that when they are late, they are REALLY late.” I went on to ask her if she thinks that the tardy sweeps will be effective over time, and she replies yes, she thinks so. “They will eventually—if they practice enough. It’s just practice.”

The administrators and enforcers also have something to say, as they have set goals for the school that they want to be met and maintained.

Photo by Jasper Mann

“We were averaging over 100 tardies a day,” says Ms. Busch, the school's head attendance counselor. “That is way too many.” She explains how they have been wanting to implement the tardy sweeps for a long time, but there has never been a great chance to get it started. “The biggest things are period absences,” she elaborates. “These are kids who are hiding out in the bathrooms and walking around campus when they are supposed to be in class.” She continues to say that even in the few short weeks that they have been doing the sweeps, tardies have already decreased by 5%, and they haven’t even been enforcing the consequences yet. “It's a life skill to have good time management,” she chuckles. “If I had as many tardies as some of these students, I would be fired.”

As head attendance counselor, Ms. Busch is collecting meaningful data about the sweeps. “If we are working towards reducing the tardies by 20% by the end of the semester, and we have 100 tardies now, that would only be 80 tardies, right? So, even though that seems like a lot, it's less, and if we don’t see that happening, we’re doing something wrong.” I asked her about the environment in the hallways in between classes now, and what teachers and students have been saying about it. “The teachers love it,” she responded. “You know what it's like…waiting for someone? Then you are wasting time. Your time and everyone else's time.” This idea is backed up by Mr. Hicks, who says, “The hallways are quiet now, no…running around and screaming. I can teach my class on time without having to worry about anything else.”

I thought this was interesting because I got a completely different response from the students when asked this same question. “I can’t walk my friends to class anymore,” says 11th grader Ash, “It’s kind of sad.” There were many variations of this response, but most of them include feeling like they are being forced to rush, at least when compared to how they were managing their time before.

“Time management is an important life skill,” says Ms. Busch. “It teaches you how to plan out your own time and be respectful of others' time as well. I know a lot of adults who don’t have this skill and…it isn’t nice.”

A message from Mr. Tang sent to all staff

Along with Ms. Busch, people like Mr. Tang (Assistant Principal), and Ms. Gendrano Adao (Restorative Justice Coordinator), are also helping to monitor the tardy sweeps and keep track of our progress. You’ve probably seen Mr. Tang in the hallways before class or heard his voice on the PA. Initially, he was the one who came up with the idea for the sweeps, and he has some ideas about them as well. “The goal is to discourage tardiness and encourage students to value their time and others' time for learning,” he says. “We hope students will develop highly effective habits, such as time management skills, that will serve them well today and help them be successful tomorrow.” He adds on to say that he wants to create a “culture of excellence” at ERHS that values teaching and learning.

Ms. Gendrano Adao also presents a similar view. “The goal is always to get students in class to learn and contribute to the classroom culture in a positive way. When a student comes in late, they might miss instruction or distract other students,” she adds. “The overall goal is to have students feel more accountable for their learning by getting to class on time and instilling a strong work ethic for their own future.” All of the teachers that I spoke to are adamant that the tardy sweeps shouldn’t be something you hate, they should be something that you feel is there to help you. Mr. Tang said something that I think puts it into perspective: “[I’m worried about] students not understanding the point of the tardy sweeps, thinking it's a punishment for being tardy, rather than accountability and self-respect for their own learning.”

After hearing the opinions of students, teachers, and administrators, it's clear that the sweeps are a complex topic. Some people love it, some people hate it, and the rest don’t really care. I’m interested to see if the goals of our administrators will be achieved, and how they will affect our school in the long run.

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