A High School Is Charging Students Money If They're Late To Class, And The Toll Gets Higher Each Time

For some high schoolers in Utah, being late to class will cost more than a trip to the principal’s office or a few minutes of lost class time. As of last Tuesday, Utah’s Stansbury High School is charging students a tardy fee if they’re late to class. Students will get a warning for their first tardy. If students are late a second time, they’ll receive a $3 fine. Every additional tardy after that will cost $5.

The school’s new policy was implemented in hopes of keeping kids in class and helping them prioritize being on time, according to Principal Gailynn Warr. Warr tells AOL the tardy fee works in tandem with the school’s goal to “respect people, property, and time.” The fines will not be handed out by teachers, only administrators like Warr.

So far, no one has had to pay the fine. However, some parents in the district are critical of the new policy. “I think it's opening up a Pandora's Box,” one parent of a Stansbury High School student told AOL. “That's not going to fix the problem that they're facing,” she continued. While other parents are concerned about this new fine being a way for the school to generate income, the school assures parents that isn’t their goal. “It would be great if I didn't get any money,” Warr said to AOL. “We just want kids in class.”

All money collected will go to a fund that will be used for student incentives. The report doesn’t specify what those incentives will be and which students would be allowed to use them.

If students are unable to pay a monetary fine, they’ll have the option to either take a lunch detention or maintain a clean attendance record for the next few weeks in order to clear the fine. “What we're really trying to target is those periods between classes where really it's a choice,” Assistant Cody Reutzel told AOL. “It's a personal decision of whether you're going to walk from class A to class B and be on time.” The administration believes the policy is already working, as they’ve yet to issue any monetary fines.

This isn’t the first time a school has implemented a fee for students who are late to class. In August, Concordia High School in Indiana also announced a late fee policy, charging students up to $30 for being tardy to school. A different Utah high school issued a similar policy in 2004. In three days of the policy being implemented, the school had already handed out 30 fines. It’s unclear whether that school still has the fine in place or how successful it has been in curbing students’ tardiness.

While tardy fees may intend to encourage personal responsibility among students, they don’t necessarily account for the parents’ role in getting students to school. Additionally, these kinds of monetary fines tend to disproportionately affect low-income families. “It’s counterproductive,” Michelle Singletary wrote in a previous column for the Washington Post, “and the fines often hit people who can least afford them.” Across the country, parents have faced both significant monetary fines of a couple thousand dollars as well as criminal charges for their kids' chronic tardiness.

As Singletary writes, “Is there a real cause-and-effect relationship here? Does being late to school a lot mean that a kid is going to flunk out or become a social deviant?” Perhaps the cause-effect relationship worth investing resources in is understanding why students are late to school in the first place, acknowledging the socio-economic imbalance among families who are afforded the time and money to be more readily invested in kids’ school life.