Sophomoric Skipping: Determining Fair Consequences

stoplightSnapshot: Should a student who skipped school be allowed to make up missing work? This case explores dilemmas that arise when academic consequences are linked to behavioral infractions. How can schools discourage dangerous behavior without endangering learning? 


Case Description: Sophomore Skip Day is a longstanding tradition at small-town, middle-class Wingrave High School. But concerns about equity and safety have led administrators to implement a new policy aimed at discouraging students from skipping school. These new consequences mean that students will not be able to make up any work they miss for an unexcused absence. The new policy is quickly put to the test when three sophomores skip school and find themselves publicly outed on social media. One of those boys is now in danger of failing biology after missing the chance to present a big project—a presentation that was moved because of snow days. 

This case explores important dilemmas related to school discipline. How far should schools go to discourage students from engaging in risky behavior? How can teachers and administrators determine just consequences for infractions? Are blanket discipline policies essential for consistency and fairness—or does fairness require leaving room for individual exceptions? What do schools teach students when they aren’t allowed to make up missing work?  

Additional Resources:

  • While the students in the case are sophomores, at many schools around the country the tradition is for seniors to skip school. For a look at how one school tried to end their tradition of Senior Skip Day, read this account from the Acalanes Blueprint, the student newspaper of Acalanes High School in California. 
  • There is a movement in education to ensure that grades reflect student learning, rather than student behavior. This article, written by a high school assistant principal, describes how and why one school rewrote their grading policies so that students with unexcused absences (like Rocco) could make up their missing assignments.