With the goal of preventing a new policy from being put in place, 1,300 Olympia High School students have signed a student-run petition. This policy is informally being called “the tardy policy” around the school, although it is not officially named.
Tardies at OHS are, “completely out of control,” according to Dean of Students Robert Bach. The new policy would ask all teachers to lock their door when the bell rings, and not let any students in without a pass from the attendance office. Although the policy has not yet been put in place, or even officially announced, it has been met with both support and opposition from students and teachers.
Bach, who is in support of the policy explains, “It is to put in place once and for all a policy that will reign in what is an out of control loose culture.” In contrast, Dallas Myers, Theater Teacher at OHS, says, “I’ll never lock a kid out of my classroom, I think that’s ridiculous and I think it sends the wrong message.” There are teachers who are ready to implement this policy in their own classrooms immediately, and others who are currently refusing to even consider it.
Bach understands the initial backlash. “People feel offended. They feel like it’s not a hospitable situation,” he says. Bach adds, “I would never endorse a policy that I felt like took away your rights and freedoms.”
However, many students feel this policy would do just that. The Senior who started the petition, Max Tuitele, feels this rule will only “waste more time and be more of a distraction,” because students would have to interrupt the class by knocking on the door. Even students who arrived on time would have to interrupt the class to return from the bathroom, appointments, etc. Tuitele still acknowledges the current tardy problem that exists at OHS. “I believe there should be a more effective way to go about it than locking doors,” he says.
Some teachers on campus agree with Tuitele. While most staff don’t discount the magnitude of the tardy problem, not everyone believes locked doors will take this school in the right direction.
“I want my students to know that they can come into my class as soon as they get here and they are welcome to be here and I want them to be able to learn. And you cannot learn if you’re under ‘stress brain’, if you’re feeling guilty, [if] you’re ashamed when you walk in a room- you can’t learn,” says Kate Chan, Spanish Teacher at OHS. The unwelcoming aspect of locked doors is a concern for multiple teachers. Jake Tyrrell, Assistant Principal at OHS, feels that locking the doors will actually force a more meaningful teacher- student interaction. Because the door is locked, when a student is late to class the teacher must open the door for them and is more likely to check in.
Some teachers share the concern of valuable learning time that may be lost as a result of this new policy. Rather than walking in one or two minutes late, a locked door would force students to return to the attendance office to get a pass. Other teachers, such as Myers, worry that when students are met with a locked door, they will not bother trying to get in. Bach acknowledges the worry of class time being lost saying, “that’s a good argument but it’s an argument that is used too often to stand in the way of true systematic change.”
Principal at OHS, Matt Grant, has a slightly opposite concern. For Grant, this policy will help to prevent class time being lost, by encouraging students to get to class on time. He believes that the beginning of the period may be the most important part of class. Although Grant supports this policy, he has concerns with the amount of student and teacher unrest surrounding it. “Let’s step back, let’s not try to force this down people’s throats,” he says. Grant hopes that after hearing from both students and staff, “we can come up with a revised policy that people can get behind.”
Locking the doors is also a safety measure, which is modeled after other schools that follow this policy. “The idea of a classroom door being locked is solely based on this idea of creating a safe space for students and adults,” says Tyrrell, whose number one issue is safety- not tardies. Multiple administrators have explained that locked classroom doors have been proven to be successful in keeping people safe in the event of a school shooter, or an unsafe person on campus.
“I get that there might be a security issue that I don’t know [about]. If that’s the case I want to be informed,” says Chan. In the midst of rumors and miscommunication it is clear that staff and students are not on the same page in regards to this policy. Students and staff will have the opportunity to discuss their concerns and voice their ideas at the Community Council meeting on January 20th.