The Cost of Skipping ClassSarah Jackson | August 31, 2018
“Our greatest natural resource is the minds of our children.” Walter Elias Disney
The most valuable thing parents can give to their children is the opportunity for higher learning. Education is a privilege, and it is considered a priority in the United States, but a high school in Oklahoma may be taking things too far.
Because of “attendance problems,” Muskogee High School will now enforce a law where four absences in four weeks could result in a $250 fine, according to Principal Kim Fleak. This also affects partial absences, so if the student is late to class one too many times, they could end up paying for it, quite literally.
I understand the importance of making sure students attend their classes, particularly in high school. Education is a valuable asset, especially in today’s society, and students need to be aware that missing class has consequences, both in their current situation and potentially for their future. But administering a hefty fine to students who miss class is not going to invoke a sudden love for learning.
Penalties should be implemented for students who skip class, but the punishment needs to fit the crime, and the consequences of this law must be carefully considered. While in theory a fine for missed classes would punish the student and no one else, in reality the ones affected by these consequences will be the families of the high school students.
In many families the student will remain unaffected by the “consequences” of skipping class because their parents will simply pay the fine for them, defeating the purpose of the punishment entirely. But other families, especially those in low-income situations, could be severely affected by a $250 fine.
Johanna Hondy, parent of a student at Muskogee High School, told local news station KTUL the new law would be financially burdensome for many families in the community.
“There’s no way that I could afford a $250 fine,” Hondy said. “I don’t know anyone in this town who can afford that really.”
According to the United States Census Bureau, the United States has a 12.7 percent poverty level, while Muskogee County has a 21.4 percent poverty level – much higher than the national average. This means any additional financial burdens are going to hit home in more ways than one for Muskogee citizens.
Abigail Cochran, a student at the high school and one of over 400 people who have signed a petition against fining students, said in a Fox News article that enforcing these fines against students could deter some from coming to school at all.
“There are people wanting to drop out of school because of this, because they know they can’t pay these fines,” Cochran said.
Students dropping out is the opposite of the school’s desire, but if they continue to move forward with the plan to fine tardy students, Muskogee High School may see a decrease in enrollment altogether.
If Muskogee High School wants to increase attendance at their school, they ought to hand out more age-appropriate consequences, such as detention or community service for students who miss class. Skipping school already hurts the student, because they are missing important lectures or quizzes, which could impact their grades. And high school GPAs are permanent records for students, which reflect on them even post-graduation.
Students need to be taught the importance of their education, but not through a fear of financial repercussions, which could affect both themselves and their families severely. In college or in the work force, people are required to take charge of their own responsibilities, and high school should prepare students for this reality check. But Muskogee High School needs to find a different way to teach their students the value of an education.