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News, Opinion

Tardy Sweeps – There’s Got to be a Better Way

At Santa Maria High School, tardy sweeps are a system that many students loathe. Tardy sweeps are scheduled covertly, so that students do not know which days will have tardy sweeps and which will not. This creates a greater influence since students are more likely to do everything in their power to get to class on time if the possibility of being caught in a sweep lurks over them every day, ready to strike without warning. Any unexcused tardy on Tardy-Sweep Day, which is defined as a student not being in class at the time of the final bell without a note from faculty to excuse them, results in immediate transfer to Ethel Pope auditorium where students are held until the end of the period. While in the auditorium, students may sit.

And that’s about it.

There’s no use of electronics, no talking and no doing homework. Time that would have otherwise been spent in a classroom is spent on what appears to be absolutely nothing at all. Not exactly the most efficient practice. Many times, students are told that school is their job, to consider this time to be employment to prepare them for the real world. If a student is late to work often, this can result in being let go; however, they are never told to quietly go sit in the back room for an hour. It is unproductive. How is this getting any work done?

Schools with similar tardy sweep policies, including our own, have reported significant drops in the number of tardies since implementing the policies, often drastic decreases. This is a welcome result and exactly the desired outcome; however, we must question at what cost comes this victory.

Every moment in education matters. Every minute in the classroom should be weighed as invaluable to a student’s success. That being said, the literal value of class time in terms of taxpayer dollars also plays quite a significant role in this matter. Each class period from which a student is absent means an entire day they are set back in that subject, and while one day may not seem like much at first deliberation, it does have an effect.

Think of a discipline such as mathematics. The subject is a constant stacking of knowledge gained over time; each lesson a teacher gives is wholly necessary to understand the current concept. If a student is not there to receive such instruction, they are at a grave disadvantage that follows a student throughout their academic excursion.

Even one day can harm a student’s chances of success and not only in that particular subject. Missing class time means that the student will have to compensate for that missed time, taking attention away from other classes that must still be tended to. As the saying goes, time is money; missed class time means money spent on a student who isn’t actually receiving the education they are expected to. If the eventual outcome does result in a student being held back, this is an even greater cost to the taxpayer who pays for public education.

Let’s be clear; a policy to decrease the number of tardies is needed for the exact reason the current one is so imperfect: every moment of education time matters. The disciplinary intents behind the current tardy policy are well meaning. The Breeze had the privilege to speak to Assistant Principal Diaz on this very subject. When asked about those who might be using the tardy sweeps to get out of class purposefully, Diaz explained that if a pattern of someone abusing the system is noticed by administration, action to prevent further behavior is taken. He also remarked that he personally has never seen a “good” tardy prevention policy. Administration is simply working with the best they have, which seems to be quite effective at first glance. His advice to students was to “be on time.” If a student gets to class on time, they have no cause to worry about the tardy sweep policy.

Such advice might be short-sighted though, since sometimes things are just out of a person’s control. The vast majority of tardy students aren’t tardy because they wish to be, rather due to mishaps that cost them punctuality. Sometimes the dog decides it would be fun to take your shoes and hide them and every light just hits red. Everyone has been there, and even a ten-minute buffer to account for such unexpected events can expire all too quickly. Students will sometimes be late to class. Short of death threats, little can be done to stop this. Tardies will happen. That being said, a system that does more good than harm needs to be in place.

There must be a better way, and with a small bit of consideration some alternative methods do happen to rear their heads. Tardy sweeps that result in immediate detention of sorts take a student out of class. For the reasons already discussed, this is an unproductive practice. Enforcing a policy where students were sentenced a detention at another time, however, so that they may attend class, would be much more beneficial.

This is the first year Santa Maria High School has begun denying a seven-period class schedule to students, meaning that now students only have six classes a day instead of the seven that had been offered previous years to many. Class schedules now range for the average student from either a first-sixth period or a second-seventh period. If,  during a tardy sweep, a late student was marked to attend a detention at a non-scheduled first or seventh, this would mean they are being disciplined while still receiving needed instruction time. If it is not possible to go to first or seventh period, an arrangement for after school can be made. If students do not show up for their scheduled detention, that’s when administration can step in.   

We have confidence in our hard working and brilliant staff to do what’s best for the student population. They know better than anyone the value of time and that it should not be wasted. We hope there will be change in the current policies regarding tardies, and if you, as a reader, being staff, student, parent, or otherwise, care any bit about this issue, make your voice and opinion heard.