OP ED: Are Detentions Being Handed out too Easily?

OP ED: Are Detentions Being Handed out too Easily?

Zach Long, Co-News Editor, Senior

Detention is historically the standard punishment for students who misbehave in school. School administration has the authority to apply this punishment on students who take part in inappropriate behavior, reminding students of the power that school administration has over them. Therefore, it is also necessary for this punishment not to be handed out too lightly. Detentions take away students’ freedom since they have to spend their free time doing something they don’t want to do. In Pelham Memorial High School, detentions are being distributed to students a bit too carefreely. 

As students return to a fully in-school year of learning, the school administration is really cracking down on students’ lateness and unexcused absences. One unexcused absence leads to a detention unless there is an accompanying note by a parent that vouches for the student’s absence. As a senior, I had to take my senior pictures in school during my ninth period class. I took my pictures and received an unexcused absence for that period. The following week I was called into the main office about my missing attendance and told to attend detention first period the next day, unless proof could be presented that I was taking my senior pictures during my absence. Luckily, I still had my receipt from my senior pictures, and was exempted from my detention. It is absurd that just one unexcused absence, which should have been excused, led to detention. It would be acceptable if a student is a repeat offender of unexcused absences. Instead, school administration should look into the cause of absence further and provide warnings for a student’s initial bad behavior. 

In the PMHS student handbook there is a detailed step-by-step explanation of how lateness and absences will be tolerated. In the handbook, cutting class is defined as “an unauthorized or unexcused absence from an assigned class or study hall.” It also states that cutting class will result in morning and lunch detention, and, if needed, appropriate additional disciplinary action. I do not think a singular period of unexcused absence should result in a detention. Like my situation, students could have missed periods because of an in-school conflict. It is not the student’s fault that they were not appropriately excused from a class. Therefore, they should not face the punishment of detention. Secondly, students tend to come late or miss the first period of school due to factors beyond their control such as lack of transportation to the school or if a student sleeps in and misses their first period, a warning should be given not detention. Sleeping in most likely is not a normal occurrence. Therefore, a warning should be enough incentive for students to make sure they come to school on time. Of course, if sleeping in does become a normal occurrence then detention or additional punishment should be given. 

It is quite obvious that detentions are necessary for schools and their students, since there must be a punishment for unacceptable behavior. This being said, these detentions can be quite devastating to some students since it is documented on either a temporary or permanent record. Colleges can see a student’s permanent record, and can view a student’s temporary record if requested. This can negatively affect students’ chances of admission into colleges. Detentions are indeed important, however, extreme caution must also be taken when dispensing these punishments to our students.