Penalties for Tardiness at Peekskill High Questioned

Crackdown wins approval but out-of-school suspension after 2 incidents called extreme, inappropriate.

A crackdown on student tardiness at has won teacher approval but raised questions about what constitutes appropriate disciplinary action.

Hallway sweeps to round up students who are supposed to be elsewhere are among the first steps the school district has taken to improve the climate at the school in the wake of a critical in December. Teachers have identified tardiness and attendance as their top behavioral concern, Superintendent of Schools James Willis told the Board of Education last night.

“The teachers like it,” Willis said of the crackdown. “They can’t teach if the kids aren’t there or if they disrupt class by coming in late. The kids need to be there on time.” He added that students are allowed a couple of minutes of leeway after the bell rings before an unannounced sweep begins.

Board members and a teacher questioned whether imposition of out-of-school suspension was appropriate after two incidents of tardiness since the hallway crackdown began in January. They noted that the district’s Code of Conduct (last updated in August) is more lenient, listing “Class Cutting/Multiple Lateness 2 cuts or 4 tardies” as a first-offense infraction warranting “Possible parent notification and detention – minimum 1 day, Mandated assignments.”

“Punishment must be proportionate and appropriate,” board member Marcela Bobe said, noting that out-of-school suspension is not included in the code as an early disciplinary measure.

“We need to follow the code,” board member Douglas Glickert said, adding that out-of-school suspension was “a bit much” after two incidents of tardiness.

“Or revisit the code,” said board Vice President Fran Feuerman, suggesting that allowing “4 tardies” as a first offense might be too lenient.

eacher Michelle Torres suggested during the hearing of citizens that the crackdown target habitual offenders, not occasional lateness. “Suspension is serious, something major,” she said, urging the district to follow the progressive discipline, including parental notification and detention, in the Code of Conduct. She questioned whether suspension for tardiness would become part of a student’s permanent record; “I fear for innocent kids,” she said.

Board President Joseph Urbanowicz said faculty members had indicated that tardiness was “a serious thing” but suggested investigating alternatives to suspension.

Several board members opposed listing such suspensions on students’ permanent records. Willis agreed, saying, “We don’t want relatively minor stuff on the permanent record,” adding that he would gather additional information about the crackdown and present it to the board.  

In an effort to publicize and explain the crackdown on unacceptable behavior, Willis has been meeting regularly with teachers and small groups of students. He also spoke with each assembled class at the high school, during which he pointed out such unacceptable behavior as a girl texting while he was speaking and a boy asleep in the front row.

In related matters:

  • Regarding use of cell phones and other electronic devices in classrooms, “We’re all over the lot,” Willis said, noting that use of such devices can range from online research to personal texting. The district plans to survey the high school regarding use, abuse, benefits and problems and revisit the issue at the end of the school year. Bobe suggested considering the impact on students whose devices do not have online capability or who have no devices.
  • Joseph Mosey, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, said the district is developing a few academic study halls (as opposed to traditional unstructured study halls) for this school year and plans to develop more for next year.
  • Willis said the district must make sure that classroom instruction is compelling and engaging, which will help reduce tardiness and absence issues. He acknowledged that this goal is not always met.
joshua tanner February 09, 2012 at 08:07 AM
PHS needs a no nonsense Joe Clark. It feels like the inmates are running the asylum.
HenHud Supporter February 09, 2012 at 12:28 PM
Curious how this is applied. They say this is for habitual offenders. Can you judge habitual offenders after two incidents? Is someone who is tardy in September and then again in May subject to the rule? If you don't have a rule that is applied consistently and uniformally, it isn't a very good rule.
CJ February 09, 2012 at 04:15 PM
You have a Joe Clark in Ms. Lazurus -too bad they are blaming her for the bad report and not the real culprit, Judith Johnson, who stuck her head in the sand - now they want to get rid of her. Can Peekskill have any continuity????
joshua tanner February 10, 2012 at 04:46 AM
Judith Johnson was all sizzle and no steak, She was a good speaker and was good on TV. But if you listened to her she was always vague in the end - pie in the sky stuff. Just walking/driving by the campus you could sense things were errant. All the police cars were a giveaway.
Leslie Lawler February 10, 2012 at 10:49 AM
Until Peekskill -- both the school district and the municipality -- decides to truly bump up its standards, it's going to be the same deal on a different day. CJ, you hit it right on the head. Ms. Lazarus is indeed a Joe Clark, and I admire her courage, wisdom and fortitude to do the right thing day after day. "Doing the right thing" is a foreign concept to both our school leaders and our politicians (and that's all they are, hot-air politicians, not true public service officials with the good of the community at heart) -- the only thing that drives these characters is doing the popular thing and "what's in it for me?" Doing the right thing involves making unpopular, hard-line decisions in order to effect change and improvement. How dare anyone on that school board - and I'm talking to all of them - question or blame Ms. Lazarus for Queen Johnson's disastrous and self-serving leadership. Both the new superintendent and Ms. Lazarus are doing something almost unheard of in this city -- enforcing rules -- rules that have sat unenforced on the books for years. Wow, making sure kids get to class on time to learn....right, that's a reason to boot a fearless principal. Our kids know how to physically fight (did yesterday's incident make the blotter?) and we've got a monument-to-Johnson on Washington Street, but who cares that our kids can't read, write or comprehend at grade level.
leesther brown February 10, 2012 at 02:11 PM
Leslie Lawler February 10, 2012 at 02:17 PM
And there it is. It moves me to tears.
RealTimeRufus February 10, 2012 at 03:38 PM
RE: L.B.'s youtube clip If these are Peekskill students, perhaps it's better that they're tardy. In fact, they should be encouraged not to show up at all.
Borzette February 10, 2012 at 03:52 PM
Exactly. Suspend the whole lot of them -- and let the PHS kids who really want to learn (there must be a few) be able to do so without having to put up with this.
Warwick Deeping, Borzoi February 10, 2012 at 04:08 PM
Apparently the Peekskill Chapter of MENSA is in session! Perhaps they are discussing which Borzoi book to select for their book club. I recommend something by Carl Van Vechten.
Flem Snopes Jr. February 10, 2012 at 05:02 PM
Those yoots got thar hands on thar own hardware!
Jill Gertz February 10, 2012 at 05:21 PM
When driving and walking around town I see more and more kids walking around with their rear ends hanging out of their pants. They look like real degenerates. I have to imagine these kids are going to school like that because I see the kids walking like that when school gets out. Where are the parents, school and civic leaders on this offensive behavior? Any kid with his butt hanging out of his pants should be suspended and hopefully arrested.
Clem Snopes February 10, 2012 at 06:37 PM
Whenever I see a kid with his butt hanging out, I ride up, take my cane, and give him a good thrashing on the rump, much like Preston Brooks did to Charles Sumner back in the day. Decency must be restored. Good men must not submit to barbarianism.
peekskillman February 10, 2012 at 11:10 PM
Borzette nailed it perfectly: kick out the "kids" who are late, obstructive, violent, etc., and let those who want to learn do so. Im sure that majority of PHS students and parents feel this way. Maybe NYS will follow the other state's lead and do away with no child left behind (one of the dumbest promotionall programs ever conceived), and the classrooms can be returned to instructional areas, not day care for those who dont want to learn. BTW, the mentioned video on You tube has been pulled as of this writing. Guess the school board know someone. If anyone out there can re-pot , would love to see it!
peekskillman February 11, 2012 at 01:11 AM
sorry, that last sentence should be "re-post"-there are enough drug problems in the high school as it is
leesther brown February 11, 2012 at 01:48 AM
Sure they did because they only want to see what they're willing to confront...But that don't make the video go away....
peekskillman February 11, 2012 at 01:50 AM
Miss Brown, true words. Do you know of anyone who can post this? The community should be able to see just what is going on in our school with our tax money. Thank you
joshua tanner February 12, 2012 at 03:03 AM
There are more videos like that on YouTube (and you can download and save them with Real Player): http://www.youtube.com/user/Richboye23#p/u/7/U4QswKO75jU http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T13XZ2lY3z0 http://www.youtube.com/user/Richboye23#p/u/9/EgmP7HGwBAE
leesther brown February 12, 2012 at 05:05 AM
#damnshame...Take A Good Look At The Players......
Flem Snopes Jr. February 12, 2012 at 02:51 PM
These gentlemen are quite proficient in the use of the "n" word. This is just a rough estimate but I believe every third word was "n". Apparently this appellation can be used as noun, verb, adjective, adverb, pronoun and conjunction. They say the Eskimos have multiple words for "snow". Here we have one word for everything. Werd!


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