201 E Chapman Ave, Fullerton, CA 92832


201 E Chapman Ave, Fullerton, CA 92832


201 E Chapman Ave, Fullerton, CA 92832


OPINION: Tardy sweeps must go

Many students are unfairly scooped up and given Saturday School during tardy sweeps. Illustration by Spike Lopez.

I wrote an editorial supporting tardy sweeps last year. After interviewing assistant principal Leticia Gonzalez, she convinced me that tardy sweeps were designed to help students.

Well, I’ve changed my mind. This year the tardy sweep program is random and just plain mean.

I’ve interviewed assistant principal Gonzalez a few times this year. She still says that the tardy sweep goal is to reduce tardiness while also understanding why students are late. “I would much rather talk to a student and say, ‘How can I help you get to class on time than assigning them a consequence,’” she said.

And, you know what? I believe Ms. Gonzalez is sincere about wanting to help students. But the fact is that among the 10 tardy swept students I’ve spoken to this year, none of them have felt the goal was to help them.

One senior told me she was rushing to class while a school official watched her. Once the bell rang, they yelled at her to stop running and go to the library. What went from being a minute late to class became a two-hour Saturday School detention. Instead of being one minute late, she was 15 minutes late because she had to receive a tardy sweep wrist band and receive a Saturday School punishment. The senior said no one discussed her tardiness with her; instead, she was told to “get to school earlier.”

One freshman told me she was trying her best to get to school on time after an early morning medical exam. Because she arrived without an official doctor’s note, she got a Saturday School. The freshman said that a campus supervisor yelled, “If you’re late to work, they’re going to fire you. This is to prepare you for when you’re an adult.”

That senior, that freshman, and several other students I interviewed said that they felt the staff didn’t care, that they were more concerned with enforcing arbitrary rules than understanding students’ behavior.

Particularly cruel is piling on more punishment if a student is caught without an ID card. No ID card turns a 2-hour detention into a 4-hour detention. What? Seriously? Only after increasing the punishment did the school official inform the student that they could access their student ID on their phone through the 5-Star Student app.

Still, the biggest issue is that students miss more class time by being caught in the tardy sweep than they would’ve missed were they just late and went to class. After I was caught in a recent tardy sweep, I arrived to class in the middle of a classmate’s presentation. I could’ve arrived while my teacher was taking roll, but the tardy sweep created a bigger hassle for everyone.

There were tardy sweeps three days this week (April 15, 16 and 17).
(Elany Zavala)

The tardy sweep is even worse when some students find a way to ditch class instead of getting caught. One senior I spoke to said she heard the tardy sweep music from the other side of campus. “Nope,” she said before turning around and walking back to her car. One sophomore said, “I should’ve thought of that,” explaining that his senior brother had ditched during a tardy sweep but left him there to get caught. “I depend on my brother for a ride,” he said, “and that’s why I’m sometimes late. And on that day I got the Saturday School while he just took off.” Even though the student will now have an unexcused absence in Aeries, school officials hardly ever track down students with unexcused absences. In other words, being two minutes late without an ID card means four hours of your Saturday while skipping class to avoid the sweep might mean an extra cup of coffee at Starbucks with no punishment.

Tardy sweeps need to go. School officials can see my Aeries account. If I have 20 tardies, they can come after me. But if my friend has one tardy, she shouldn’t have to serve a Saturday School because she was unlucky enough to be late on the wrong day.

Assistant principal Gonzalez did show me a few stats showing that there has been a decline in tardies since the implementation of tardy sweeps, but I think they would get similar results if they targeted repeat offenders instead of sweeping up innocent students in random periods.

The punishment for tardies should also be adjusted. Two or four hours on a Saturday feels too harsh. When I had to go to Saturday School for being tardy, I spent my time on my phone, doing nothing. There was no effort to support me.

Instead of Saturday School, a more structured and fair punishment would be an on-campus lunch detention where staff actually has one-on-one conversations with students about why they were late to class. It matters if they’re lazy and selfish (“I was getting McDonalds”) or if they’re stressed (“My sister drives me and she overslept”).

If we must keep tardy sweeps, start the penalty at three minutes after the bell so people who are barely late don’t have to face harsh punishments. Ultimately, we need to feel that school officials care, and the way tardy sweeps are currently conducted makes us future leaders feel like we’re being trained to lead from prison.

When the rules make it so that it’s better for students to skip class than to be tardy, the rules must change.

News editor Alicia Bennett contributed to this story.

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