The Ditching Epidemic
The attendance issue that has grown as the school year progresses.
May 7, 2019
The closer it gets to the end of the school year, the emptier classes get, especially when senioritis is in full swing. Juan Diego administration constantly warns students not to skip class and even threatens seniors by telling them they won’t be allowed to walk at graduation. But is the school really following through? Are students facing the consequences of skipping? The Speaking Eagle staff takes an in-depth look at why students ditch class, the school’s policy on truancy and what consequences students face.
The Art of Ditching
Students often ignore the warnings from administration and choose to skip class, but the act becomes increasingly more common as the year slowly comes to an end.
Ditching class; It’s a nationwide phenomenon, especially this time of year when senioritis is in full swing. We are always warned not to do so and we are led that those who dare to ditch will be caught and forced to face the consequences. However, according to a Speaking Eagle survey, the reality is that most students will make it out of the building without so much as a warning or even a look of suspicion from school staff.
44% of the 50 students polled at Juan Diego admitted to ditching and most of those students said they found it easy to successfully avoid going to class. “It really isn’t that difficult. Just walk out and look like you know what you’re doing and nobody will question you,” one student said, “It seems like they don’t really pay attention. It’s actually kind of concerning. In the last month or two I’ve seen Salts catch people with the golf cart or in his car, but he’s only one guy. The campus is large enough that if you know what you’re doing, you can still get away with ease,” they concluded.
Another anonymous student explained that they’ve found that the key to getting away, is simply to not act suspicious. “The easiest way to ditch class is to not wear a backpack and pretend you’re on an errand. I’ve pretended I’m in recycling club or pretended I’m working on a research project, and those are just the times I’ve been asked about it. More often than not I never even need an excuse because nobody bothers me… I’ve walked out of school during passing period just to go to McDonald’s with my friends… and nobody even looked. The secret to ditching class is not doing anything interesting. Just don’t look lost or like you’re hiding and you’ll be alright,” they said.
Students at Juan Diego often joke about Mr. Salts chasing them down on his golf cart while they try to leave the school, yet most students say they go unnoticed whenever they ditch class. Four students stated that they simply walked out of the school and were not caught, but others prefer to hide out in less trafficked areas of the school. “I took refuge in places that didn’t have anything going on for the hour. I’ve done this several times and no one’s ever caught me,” a student said. Some kids have even said that teachers can sometimes play a role in their getting out of class. “I go to a teacher I trust when I know they don’t have a class,” one student admitted.
Some students have been caught in the act of ditching and have ended up having to face the consequences. One student said they had to serve three detentions, another said they had to speak with a school counselor, and another student said they spoke with Mr. Salts on the issue. However, some students have been caught and weren’t dealt any sort of punishment. “I ditched a pep rally to prepare for an audition I had and when my much more conspicuous friends got caught in the other room, Salts checked the one I was in, next door. He told me that the pep rally isn’t optional and he better not see me do this again. He proceeded to leave without either reprimanding me, making me go back to the pep rally, or asking my name. He just left me to keep on about my business doing what I was doing,” one student explained.
With the lack of consequences or punishments, it makes it easier for students to be convinced to ditch class and leads to the obvious scarcity of filled desks toward the end of the year. And although less than 50% of students that were polled admitted to skipping class, it becomes an undeniable issue when the majority of those students say it is easy to get away with.
The Man in Charge of Ditching
A look into what Mr. Salt does when students ditch.
At Juan Diego, ditching class has been a problem since the school opened, whether it be going off campus to get food or sitting in the locker room to finish homework. Dean of students Mr. Sam Salts is someone who follows a strict protocol when it comes to truancy. You may have noticed less of him at reading over the past couple of months and that’s because he is keeping a tighter grip to stop students ditching.
A huge fear all students have while skipping class is getting caught and possibly serving a Saturday detention. During certain times of the day, you are more likely to be caught ditching like reading or lunch. “I catch a couple of students a day trying to skip class and I always send them back to where they belong,” Mr. Salts explained. “I can’t always catch students skipping, I can’t be everywhere, I am also never in the same place day after day,” Salts continued.
All throughout the year, students have ditched, no matter the weather or time of day. Mr. Salts has noticed that as the school year is coming to an end and the weather is getting nicer is when students tend to ditch the most. “It always gets worse as soon as the weather changes,” Mr. Salts said. “In the springtime it is an absolute free-for-all and students start to do things they normally would not do” Salts finished. Seasonal change is a huge part of ditching, and when spring comes around, everyone does some different things because the long winter gloom is going away and the warm spring and end of the school year is here.
There is always a specific set of instructions or protocol Mr. Salts has to follow for a variety of things and ditching is no different,When a teacher or school administrator catches someone skipping class, they do a variety of things to make sure students will not want to ditch again, like giving out detentions and a possible suspension. “We somewhat micromanage absences, teachers are the ones I count on or I hear about a kid ditching and I follow up on that,” Salts explained. “Usually the first time it’s detention, depending on what they decide to do. Going off campus is an in-school suspension or Saturday detention.” Salts continued. The protocol Salts follows relies a lot on teachers putting in attendance and having people in charge reporting back to him on which student is where.
At the end of the day, Mr. Salt cannot catch everyone who skips class. The student will have to live with the consequences of having detention or failing a class because they missed more than seven unexcused absences of the same class. You might be hungry or unprepared for a class, but if you get caught, the consequences will not be easy to deal with. Ditching will always be a problem at any high school, but you should try and power through your classes so you don’t have to worry about getting caught by Mr. Sam Salts.
Ditching the Public Way
Skipping class seems like a right of passage for students, in all schools. Juan Diego’s policies and consequences are much different than that of neighboring public schools, such as Corner Canyon High School and Alta High School.
Corner Canyon, like Juan Diego, is a closed campus, with a few exceptions. Students are authorized to leave the campus during lunchtime to purchase lunch, attend an internship program, and participate in a school excused activity, amongst others. Corner Canyon’s policies on ditching rely heavily on attendance and whether or not you are accounted for, which in a bigger school can be difficult. When the Corner Canyon Attendance Office was contacted, the administrators confirmed that they follow the handbook and use the policies included for skipping class.
Many schools have an active resource officer, and Corner Canyon is no different. The resource officer for Corner Canyon is often moving in and out of the school to keep an eye on everything going on. The job of these officers is to promote and keep safety in school areas, prevent delinquency, and even be a role model or visible figure in the school’s system.
As well as keeping the school safe, the resource officer also has the job of making sure students are in class and not skipping. If students are found off campus during school hours without permission, they are considered ‘truant’, or missing. In a situation deemed serious enough, students may be considered ‘trespassing’ and consequences can be given out by the school administrators, or possibly the local police. “The teacher didn’t show up to class and after thirty minutes, I left,” Corner Canyon sophomore, Christopher Langie said. “I just got marked absent after she showed up, and nothing happened,” Langie continued.
The overhead factor of school policy is the school districts power, which in this case is Canyons. In the district handbook, the policies seem much looser and can get settled with the school itself. The school district policies on truancy, however, is much stricter. If a student under the age of 18 is considered truant more than five times in one school year, the parent may be directed to speak with school authorities about attendance, scheduled to work outside of school, be held accountable to make up the missed days. Most rules in the district handbook are based on the fact that the students are minors, but when a student turns 18 what happens? That is up to personal school rules.
Campus policies are usually similar, but whether they are enforced by administration is a separate story. If a student is in class then marked absent by the teacher, then the student can fall into trouble with administration or their parents. On the other hand, if a student is skipping class but marked as present and they get into an accident on State Street, the school is at fault. Either situation is undesirable, but the school is held accountable for a much bigger problem.
Teachers are Taking a Stand to Stop Student Ditching
Walking into an AP class everyone is there, but walking to a elective class there is hardly half of the class is attending. Many students ditch class on a regular basis, but teachers have found clever ways to get the students to come to class.
There are some classes that a student will choose to go to and those tend to be the most difficult ones. “I think my students understand that if they miss a day’s material, they will be behind,” Science teacher Aaron Ulle said. “I try to help my students learn, early in the year, that in chemistry, it is easier to keep up than to catch up. The content is continuously building on previous topics , so, if a student misses a day, they may find that the following day is especially challenging.” Ulle continued. Many students will choose to miss classes that won’t hurt or affect their grade, and some classes will be harder to miss than others.
Each student also knows the classes which they are able to miss without a lasting penalty. Ceramics teacher Jenni Eames has come across this problem and has taken the initiative to stop them. “To stop them from skipping class I sometimes email the Dean and include them in the email…” Eames said. Our parents want us to attend school because of the price of tuition, therefore students will be more likely to attend class if their parents are aware they are skipping class.
Teachers have been clever in getting students to come to class. A way which works the best is making attendance part of the grade. Each student is trying to get into a good college with as many scholarships as possible, and that’s doubtful with low grades. “I do think that tying a grade to attendance does help for some and they will make more of an effort to be there,” dance teacher Shelti Thompson said. “For my classes each day has participation points so if they don’t attend and their absence is unexcused they get a zero for the day,” Thompson finished. If attendance impacts grades, students will be more likely to go to class and participate, even in elective classes.
As students we try to be sneaky and get away with leaving classes we just don’t enjoy. We don’t realize that our teachers are one step ahead of us and will eventually make it nearly impossible to simply leave class. With falling behind in busy work, the dean involved, and our grades changed our teachers have been persuading us to go to class.
Editorial: It’s Time for Change
Unlike most schools in Utah, it is easy to ditch classes here at Juan Diego. Administration, teachers, and students all have a role in the ditching that happens on our campus. As members of the Speaking Eagle staff, we see the possible consequences of this problem and believe that a real change needs to take place.
Though recently there have been attempts made my administration to prevent students from ditching, they have not been enough. There needs to be real reinforcement and immediate consequences for students who ditch: whether that is detention or zeros on classwork they missed while ditching. There has been talk about it, but when a student misses a class, an office secretary should be going over those absences and they should immediately be addressed. If a student is caught ditching, an immediate detention should be given. Administration needs to realize how much risk the school is at when a students ditches and do everything in their power to enforce a strict non-ditching policy.
When a student is marked present in a class they were not in, it puts the school at liability for any accidents that may occur during the time that student is absent. Teachers should take roll call at the beginning of all classes no matter what and if a student is not in class they cannot be marked as present. Even if a class is busy, teachers should prioritize taking roll, put time aside at the beginning of class to do it, and realize the importance of taking roll.
Students need to realize how much goes into them attending school at Juan Diego. Tuition is expensive and if a parent is paying that much for their kid to be learning, they should be in class regularly. Even if the student is ditching the work they miss will still have to be made up in a later class day and turned in for a grade. Students need to realize the value of being in class and possible punishments and consequences of ditching later. Even if school is getting boring or overwhelming, there are other options, like talking to a counselor or adding a learning center.
There are many pieces in the problem of ditching here at Juan Diego. Although it is easy for students to ditch and there isn’t much consequences, it is not safe or productive. Ditching makes students get behind in their studies and puts the school in a dangerous place. Schools and students alike need to realize the danger in ditching and that the risks far outweigh the benefits of skipping class.