Deciphering the Detention Policy


“No one is trying to make anyone’s life more difficult,” says Assistant Principal Molly Dilworth. This comes amid a whirlwind of confusion and dissent around the renewal of Kennebunk High School’s detention policies. As many students now well know, as of November 15, being unexcused tardy to school will result in a 30-minute detention. A student is marked tardy when they enter the building after 7:45 am. While the practice of punishing students for being late is not new, it hasn’t been enforced for the past few years. 

According to an email sent out to the parents and guardians of students at KHS, the reasoning behind renewed enforcement is that “arriving to class late can be disruptive to the learning process and put the teacher in the position of having to repeat instruction.” While this is very important to address, many students were presented with conflicting or incomplete information about the policy itself. For example, in regard to the frequency of detentions, parents were informed that detentions would be assigned “more often”, and in the KHS Student Handbook, it is written that students “may” receive detentions for being unexcused tardy. But at a mandatory assembly for the Class of 2024, students were told that they would always receive detention if they were tardy unexcused. This left many students fearful of receiving detentions through a process they couldn’t fully understand. 

So the question is raised: Exactly what must occur for a student to receive detention? After reviewing all of the information sent to the community, assessing student experiences, and speaking with Assistant Principal Dilworth, an answer has begun to take shape. When a student arrives at school after 7:45 am, they are funneled through the main office, receiving an orange tardy slip with their name on it. The moment this slip is printed, the student’s name is added to the list of students who have earned detention that day. Once a student is on the tardy list, they will receive an email titled “Notice of Detention”.  The notice informs them that they have earned detention and that the detention must be served in Ms. Leblanc’s room within 48 hours. They are then given two options: they may serve the detention before school, between 7:10 and 7:40, or they may serve the detention after school, between 2:15 and 2:45. Once a student has served their detention, their name is removed from the tardy list. 

While this may seem relatively simple, an often overlooked factor is that parents and guardians can exempt their children from detention. This is achieved if parents contact the main office and justify their child’s lateness. The moment a parent calls, with any excuse, the student is exempted from detention. The same goes for buses that are late. No student should ever receive detention for an event that is beyond their control. According to Ms. Dilworth, if a student believes there has been an error in assigning detentions, they should contact their designated assistant principal or the main office. Ms. Dilworth manages students with the last names beginning with A through L, and Mr. Putnam manages students with the last names beginning with M through Z. As well, students are not strictly bound to the 48-hour scheduling window. If a student has some commitment preventing their attendance, they can email their designated assistant principal and schedule for another time.

 While detentions have certainly improved punctuality in past years, many students and other members of the community are having a hard time accepting these new rules. One argument against the policy cites the district’s failure to consistently transport students on time as a reason not to punish students who provide their own transportation. As well, Junior and Senior students who drive themselves to school, and as such have less opportunity to be excused from detention, could be losing portions of time designated for athletics and other extracurriculars to detention. Another argument claims students should never be punished for tardiness, as it is impossible for teachers to fully understand what occurs at a student’s home prior to their arrival at school. 

Throughout, students have remained angry at the perceived nature of the policy, but according to most teachers, this renewal could not have come a minute too late. While many students at KHS are innocent of wasting school time, it has become necessary to dissuade those who do.  When asked about the core motivations of the policy, Ms. Dilworth stated “We want to show that we value others’ time.”