The detriment of the demerit system

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It is only right that a student becomes aware of the consequences that arise from his or her actions. For Townsend Harris students, the demerit system has made this possible. A substantial accumulation of demerits can lead to an expulsion of certain privileges, such as attending trips and participating in school events.

For underclassmen, this may not be much of a problem, but for seniors, this can be the difference between being able to attend their last events as a Harrisite or being barred from them. Although some may argue that the demerit system instills great fear in students, and therefore results in them making more responsible decisions in the future, the demerit system enforcement should be more lenient.

There are some exceptions, as more serious offenses deserve the amount of demerits assigned.

However, demerits such as misplacing an ID can add up. Although it is only one demerit, to miss events for such a minor offense is rather disheartening. For underclassmen, these can prove to be quite the issue, especially considering that they, unlike the seniors, cannot “work off” their demerits.

Seniors, in particular, have many events which they can be barred from if they accumulate too many demerits.

Senior year comes with prom and the senior trip, which was at a ski resort this year. Because of these high-stakes events, the senior class is given the option to “work off” their demerits, running various errands around the school such as cafeteria duty to remove the demerits from their system.

Despite the fact that two of the biggest events of one’s high school career are during senior year, they should not be the only ones  that offer the opportunity to work off demerits. The juniors have the junior banquet, and each of the other grades have their own grade trips which students cannot attend if they have too many demerits.

In addition, demerits can prevent students from taking part in productions such as SING and FON, and from joining sports or academic teams.

As a solution, the school should create detention hours after school for students of all grades. It would be best if students could remove their demerits almost immediately, as opposed to waiting a full academic year for them to expire, which the detention system can allow. 

The issue of having teachers overlooking the students at detention comes up, but this can be handled in the same manner that there are advisors for clubs and productions: by prioritizing pay for the added hours.

There may be a weekly schedule worked out as well. During detention, students can write out an apology to the teacher who gave them the demerit, or help out around the school to make up for their misdoings. There is also the option of opening up “working off demerits” to the underclassmen, so that they would be able to participate in school events.

The demerit system was put in place and enforced to ensure that students are behaving in a way that is expected of them as students of THHS. While the demerit system is effective, many of the student offenses are rather benign, and can add up to the same number of demerits as more serious offenses.

This system is inevitably depriving students of participating in productions, teams, and other school events, all of which are imperative to one’s school involvement.

Even the best of students will receive the occasional demerit, and too many can hinder their complete high school experience.