Is detention worth it?


Xander Donahue

Senior Aaron Johnson receive a detention slip from the office.

Xander Donahue, Staff Writer

When schools are forced to punish students for misbehaving, they usually revert to assigning detention. Detention can be served before, after or during school. It typically consists of a student or students sitting in a room for 30 to 75 minutes, and then… well, actually, that’s it. It seems a bit strange when you think about it. Although detentions are said to be a time where people can reflect on their behavior, I am not sure if it really serves that purpose, especially for high schoolers. It may be a good idea to put children in what is essentially a time-out for a half an hour after school, but young adults, too? That may be crossing the line.

I can’t imagine anything being more embarrassing than being forced to sit in a room quietly as a punishment. And what about students who didn’t deserve a punishment? Is it really fair for young adults to have to waste their time by sitting around when they didn’t do anything wrong? Senior Kieran Swartz was forced to serve a detention earlier this year for something that was completely out of his control.

“According to the school’s reason as to why I served a detention, I, quote on quote, ‘was not careful enough with my time in coming back to school from open lunch,’ so as such, I should be punished with a 30 min detention after school,” said Swartz.

Swartz was late to school because he got stuck waiting for a train. So, unpredictable occurrences equals wasting time by sitting in a room. Seems pretty fair, right? Now, this isn’t to say that LHS is doing a bad job or being unfair to students by enforcing detentions. Most, if not all high schools, follow the same basic system of rules. Although Swartz’s punishment wasn’t a social injustice, or even really a huge deal, it was still a nuisance and something that students shouldn’t have to worry about. Why doesn’t the school have more specific punishments that incentivize kids to not break rules?

“Not to sound like a cop, but I think there needs to be more punishment in that case,” said Swartz. “I think that schools could be doing something more effective in order to get students to change their behavior.”

So, what could be a substitute for sending people to detention? In an article from, policy fellow at Connecticut Voices for Children in New Haven, Annemarie Hillman, discussed possible solutions to the detention debate.

“There is no one specific answer. Schools should look at their policies, look at their data and provide student support,” said Hillman. “They should keep a strong focus on improving school climate. If kids feel respected, they will participate. If punishment must be given, kids should at least remain in school for it.”

So, maybe the solution isn’t cutting out detentions as a whole. Maybe it’s putting more time into helping the students and using positive reinforcement, as opposed to using detention as a default punishment. Substitutes could include having students come into school early to help teachers get ready for the day. This would give the students time to talk with their teachers one on one and also benefit the teachers. Another alternative is having more lunch detentions instead of taking up time before and after school. Lunch detentions take away from what would typically be social time, giving people a reason to avoid detention.

Despite how unfair detention may seem, it still works in some regards. Some students may use it as an opportunity to skip class and do what they want, while others may take it more seriously and learn from their mistakes. Although it might work in some cases, it is important for schools to consider adopting new ways of enforcing rules that do not waste people’s time.