New tardy and absence policy implemented

Grace Sauers, Editor-in-Chief/ Production Manager

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Over the summer, Laguna Beach High School introduced a new tardy and absence policy in response to an increased frequency of absences and tardies over the last couple years, as well as changes to California state legislature. During the first week of school, the administration introduced the dramatic changes in policy to students and parents.

The most drastic change in the new policy was the strengthening of the tardy policy. Previously, according to the 2016-2017 student handbook, 1-3 tardies would have resulted in teacher contact with the parent or guardian via email and in-class consequences may have applied. According to this school year’s policy, a student’s second tardy to a single class results in the classroom teacher issuing a detention; once a student has accumulated his or her fifth tardy cumulatively, the student is required to meet with an administrative attendance coach, serve a 3-hour Saturday School and lose athletic privileges until the five demerits are cleared.

“The tightening of the attendance is definitely harsher than what it was last year. I understand this is to improve our attendance and hopefully get less people to skip classes or school. I personally never had a problem with attendance as I believe that being at school and being in classes eventually helps increase learning and gives students a deeper understanding of the material,” said junior Lea Schaffer.

Last year, many teachers felt as though it was hard to teach effectively due to the remarkably high absenteeism and tardiness rates at the school. Alongside teacher complaints, a change in California legislature has also led to the bolstered policies. Recently, the California Department of Education introduced a change to its accountability plan, and for the first time, the state has begun to collect chronic absenteeism data.

“I’m a big supporter of the new policy. It is a big incentive for students to show up on time, especially my first period seniors,” said English teacher Jon Hendrickson.

According to the California Department of Education, the new plan draws from the 2013 Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) and is used by the state of California to determine school’s’ progress “toward meeting the needs of their students.” Previously, when assessing a school’s quality and progress, the Department took into account eight local and state indicators, such as test scores and graduation rates; however, under the new policy, a “Student Engagement” clause requires schools to report a “Chronic Absenteeism Indicator” as of September 2017.

“Chronic absenteeism and truancy are now indicators that determine a school’s performance; therefore, LBHS is now focusing on attendance and has realigned our attendance policies to assure that we are meeting the new standards set forth by the state,” said assistant principal Nikol King.

The changes to the policy have strengthened the position of the attendance specialist, Debora Arellanes, who now focuses on everything from student and teacher attendance to athlete participation and daily sign-out sheets.

The policy also created a new position among the staff: the attendance coach, Scott Finn, is responsible for meeting with students to enforce the tardy and absence policies and ensuring that students are accountable.

“I’m an attendance coach, which involves enforcing our attendance policies as well as helping students to understand the importance of being here and being on time,” said Finn.

Although some are calling the policy overly strict, there doesn’t seem to be a change in the policy in the near future.

“Absences or excessive tardies for any reason affect students’ education and reduce opportunities for success in school.  There would be no reason to ‘loosen’ the attendance policies,” said King.

The new California legislature has gone into effect as of September 2017, and after that, excessive tardies could seriously affect school ratings. Although Laguna Beach High School has a 96.90% graduation rate, according to its 2015-2016 School Accountability Report Card, excessive lateness and absences can nonetheless negatively affect a student’s ability to learn.

While the rationale for the stricter policies appears clear, many students continue to express frustration, especially in the area of demerits accumulating in a way that interferes with sports eligibility.

“The policy does not take into consideration that accidents happen. Since the game of the week no longer offers opportunities to clear demerits, once a student-athlete has five, they could be out for a week and miss a critical game,” said junior Annalise Kramer.

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