Loco Parentis: the rules and policies ensued during a normal school day

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Over the course of many years, students and teachers have adapted to the available school hours alongside a variety of rules and policies regarding the activities they can and cannot do during a school day.

Policies are different depending on the school district. Oak Park High School is in a unique position where it does not have any other high schools in the district and can pursue school policies without affecting how other schools run; this is referred to as being a “boutique school.” Switching to a block schedule went hand in hand with establishing seventh period support.

7th Period Support
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported that on an average weekday adolescents focus 6.8 hours toward educational time. However, the U.S. News and World report said that high schoolers spend an average weekly total of 17.6 hours on homework alone. OPHS hopes to minimize those numbers through the added support time — which was added roughly 10 to 15 years ago, according to English Department Chair Kathleen Bowman.

“We realized that an hour and 55 minutes was too long for a class and we also felt like we needed to find a way to support students. After being in a class for close to two hours it was difficult to focus and want to go to a support time. [This change gave] kids the best of two worlds,” Bowman said. “We were also able to make the classes less time, which made it easier for teachers and students to have more effective learning in the classroom.”

Students are given the option to visit any of their teachers during seventh period, 2:25 to 3:10 p.m. , or at lunch to ask questions, get help with subjects or do their homework. Although seventh period is a normal part of OPHS’s schedule, teachers and school administration cannot mandate it as a required period and instead leave it open for students to utilize as they please.

When a student’s grades show signs of failing, the administration can check if they are attending support time.

“If you’re not doing well in your classes, there is an expectation that you go to seventh period to get your grades up and to get the help you need,” Principal Kevin Buchanan said. “If all of a sudden you start tanking [your class] and we call you in, the first question we ask is ‘Are you going to seventh period?’”

Overall, seventh period support is an opportunity for students to make up tests and quizzes, attend reviews and get additional support.

“[Mrs. Galbreath] uses her seventh periods for us [students] to get extra credit opportunities, but only on certain days. I go if I can,” freshman Sophia Loparco said. “I [like going to seventh period] because it gives me the option to do the extra credit or if I just want to go and do some extra studying or ask her for help on certain material.”

Other schools have implemented a similar support periods.

“When I was [working at La Cañada High School], we added what we called an enrichment period,” Buchanan wrote. “We didn’t add it to the end of the day and make it optional, but added it after period one and offered mini electives, tutoring, study hall and other options that students could sign up for.”

Other schools also have similar support periods, but at different times in the day. For instance, Rancho Campana High School has a support period in the middle of their instructional day.

“[On Tuesdays and Thursdays] we first go to a class for attendance and then we are free to walk around the campus and talk to our teachers,” RCHS junior Sophia Scipione wrote.

But, some other schools such as El Camino Real Charter High School do not have a support period at all.

“I think that [having a support period] would be great and effective especially in making the students feel more welcome to ask teachers for help as during classes some students are scared to do so,” ECRCHS junior Makenna Kovacs wrote.

7th period can never be mandated as mandatory for a letter grade by a teacher. Also, coaches can’t hold mandatory practices during 7th period. Teachers are required to hold some form of support during the day.

“Students are not required to attend 7th period. We also don’t schedule any other events during 7th period,” Buchanan said. “Practices cannot begin until 3:30. Coaches cannot require you to be in practice prior to 7th period, nor can they require you to provide proof that you were in 7th period instead of showing up for practice early.”

Teacher Time

Once minors or attendees of a school walk onto a high school or lower level campus, the school administration are deemed their guardians.

Concerning the bell rung between periods, teachers still have the right to dismiss students whenever necessary regardless of the auditory signal.

“The teacher dismisses the students. If the teacher is still talking and delivering instructions, the kids can’t just get up and walk out,” Buchanan said. “We release the kids and we get to make the call because you’re under our charge at this point.”

Teachers are ultimately acting as parental figures, in a legal sense, towards students during school hours.

“Your parents give you to us, so while you’re with us we are your parents legally. It’s called ‘loco parentis,’” Buchanan said.

‘Loco parentis’ is Latin for “in the place of a parent.”

A teacher is not allowed to purposely make a student late to another class, which is why OPHS implemented longer passing periods between classes.

“We have the responsibility for [student] safety and education. We also have the authority to use that time how we see fit,” Buchanan said. “Passing periods are considered instructional minutes, so if all of a sudden we say ‘95 minutes is not enough time for a class. We’re going to shorten the passing periods by 5 minutes,’ we can pull that time back into the instructional time.”

The teacher dismisses the student – not the bell.

“Most teachers want to keep their students for the entire period. We expect that teachers will use the whole period allotted for instruction but occasionally they release students a few minutes early and as long as it doesn’t become a habit we might just counsel them,” Buchanan wrote. “However, teachers understand that they are solely responsible for supervising students during class time and if they are unable to they should notify the office and we will make other arrangements.”

Another misconceived rule is that students can leave campus if their teacher does not show up within 15 minutes of class starting. The rule is implemented in some colleges, but remains a high school myth.

“You’re 18 in college. You’re an adult. You’re not an adult here. You’re a minor and as a minor we are responsible for telling where you are while you’re supposed to be at school,” Buchanan said.

OPHS has also paid more attention to tardiness and student attendance records this year, recently increasing their monthly attendance rate to 98 percent.

“We’re becoming more aggressive [with attendance]. It’s also a financial consideration because the school only gets paid for bums in seats, so we need to make sure we maximize the reimbursement from the state,” Buchanan said. “We never got the parcel tax [through Measure A], and the state budget is a disaster. We just get the base level state funding, and to do everything we do, it’s not enough.”

The administration is looking to utilize student tardy slips to pursue higher attendance.

“I received a tardy slip for being late [six times] because it takes a while to get from the car to the end of the school. I was supposed to get a trash pick-up, but I was instead given the duty of setting up the gym for the girls’ basketball game,” junior Tessa Costello-Ritchie said. “I think that they should be calling us in earlier, so we know how many times we’ve been late instead of being called in at six [tardies] and then that’s the warning, which is the punishment.”

Homework over Holidays

Homework over the holiday breaks, like winter break and spring break, has also been a topic among students.

The rule states, “No homework, which includes, but is not limited to, assignments, projects, reports, research, and reading, will be assigned over the Winter Break for any student at any school in grades K-12, commencing with the 2015-16 school year. Tests may not be scheduled within two school days of the return from Winter Break, which would require students to prepare for them over the break.”

There are no rules regarding whether or not any class –– AP, Honors or CP –– may assign required summer reading. The expectations teachers have for their students don’t require regulating because they are allowed to run their classrooms as they please.

“I understand how it can help for students to come into the [new school] year having read a book so discussion and learning can take place quick. Being required to do so is not ideal for me,” Henteleff wrote.

In grades k-8 the rule differs that it expands to breaks including Thanksgiving, Presidents’ 4-day weekend and spring break. This does not apply at the high school level and they can be assigned homework during break or given a test two days following.

According to Buchanan, these above rules and policies are put in place to provide an academically beneficial environment for students.

“We’re always trying to figure out what’s going to be best for these kids,” Buchanan said.

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