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  • Writer's pictureJunto HKIS

Late Attendance

Zahra Brady

April 28, 2024



Anybody who’s ever been late to school will be familiar with this sight: a traffic jam at the roundabout, a late bus, students running up the hill to make it before the clock turns to thirty-five. If they don’t make it before the bell song ends, however, they’ll be relegated to waiting, sometimes with lines that extend past the security check and pool at the gate, for their turn to sign themselves in as late, the watchful eyes of the school admin on them as they write, bright yellow late-slip ready in hand.

After being tagged like some kind of wild animal, the students will arrive at their classes, at times two, three, or even five minutes later than they had originally arrived at school, depending on the time they spent in line. They may just have regular class, in which the teacher would take their late slip and mark them tardy. However, they may have an exam, and in the worst case scenario, that exam may have been a final, or a cumulative, or a grade decider—a grade decider they just lost valuable time off of because they had been forced to wait extra minutes at the gate. Imagine being that student.

For the most part, what perplexes students about this policy is just the futility of it; we could lose valuable learning time, valuable testing time, for what exactly? Teachers mark late students as tardy by default. And if the system is in place as a way to discourage late arrivals, that only applies to those who are chronically tardy for reasons like taking too long to get ready or consistently sleeping in. The average student will only show up late every now and then, sometimes due to factors outside of their control, like delayed public transportation or traffic. In the given examples, what exactly does the late policy accomplish besides impeding students’ educational experience?

One student who chose to remain anonymous stated, “It’s completely counterintuitive and just serves to make students miss even more class time,” citing an incident where they were five minutes late to a science assessment because they were signing in at the gate. They’ve claimed that, since then, whenever they arrive late to school, they just lie about having a morning free period to get out of signing in, allowing them to get to class as quickly as possible. Assuming the teacher is paying attention, they would still get marked tardy, signed in or not, late slip or empty hand.

And this is just one example. Any student who relies on transportation not provided by the school—transportation that can be subject to delays or not reliably excused in cases of traffic—has faced this problem. Perhaps a percentage of tardy students are chronically late, don’t care about the state of their attendance record, and have no respect for their teacher’s time and authority. Ultimately, though, those are the sort of people who couldn’t care less about having to sign in. What’s a couple more minutes cut into a test and/or class I couldn’t care less about?

In the end, the people who bear the burden of this system are those who are invested in their own academic success, who are attentive to what they need to learn from their teachers, and who value the importance of a quality education in the outcome of their future. Why then, are these students punished for caring too much, instead of caring too little?

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