Detention is Changing at Some Schools

Some schools are hoping to improve student behavior by practicing mindfulness, instead of detention. Woodlynde has no plans to change its format
By Matthew Rueter and Nikki Goldman
News Editor and Editor-In-Chief

It is perhaps one of the most dreaded words at a school. Typically, detention involves spending an hour after school sitting in silence.

Yet some schools have changed their detention policies in the hope of improving student behavior in ways that traditional detention has not. These methods, which have been implemented at middle and high school levels across the country, include allowing students to work on homework or practice mindfulness, instead.

Detention at Woodlynde has moved beyond sitting in silence, as students must write a 300-word essay about what they did wrong. Despite this growing trend to completely alter how detention works, Woodlynde has not considered any other options beyond the essay, according to Dean of Students
Mr. Shank.

When asked whether Woodlynde would consider enacting mindfulness, Mr. Shank pointed out that someone trained in mindfulness would have to run the program, making it difficult to set up.

In all, Mr. Shank feels that, despite problems with the current system, it is the best option that is legal and that Woodlynde has the resources to run.

“The purpose of the detention system,” as Mr. Shank puts it, “is to have a consequence for poor behavior and to give students an opportunity to think about their behavior and hopefully improve it.”

Detentions have not always had an essay that causes students to reflect on their behavior, though. Originally, students simply sat in silence. At some point in the late 1990’s administrators made the decision to require students to write a 300-word essay about what they did wrong and how they could avoid doing it again.

Some students wonder whether detention essays are actually read. Mr. Shank said he does read all of them. If it is off topic, sometimes the student must rewrite the essay.

Some Woodlynde students like the idea of changing the detention system.

Julia Plousis told the Informer, “I would rather do mindfulness. It seems like fun. It seems like you are not in trouble and calms you down.”

Braden Reilly is one among many students who support the idea of doing homework, so detention would be more like a mandatory study hall. “I don’t feel like the essay actually helps people know what they did wrong. When they get a detention, they know what they’ve done wrong.”

However, this view is not universal.

Meah Konow-Garretson supports the current system, telling the Informer: “I think that the essay is useful because you have to give a reason why [you got a detention] and you can learn from it.”

Derek Smith is another backer of detention essays, although he supports it from a different perspective. “It’s so simple. All you have to do is write an essay. And if someone feels that it is too tough, then it’s their bad.”

Tajh Abodunde proposed a different concept for detentions: have students provide a service to the Woodlynde community. “I would rather get here early in the morning or stay late in the afternoon and help the kids get in and out of their car than write a 300-word essay on [having done] something that is unexplainable.”

In response to Tajh’s idea, Mr. Shank said: “That’s a wonderful idea.” However, he doubts that the school has the resources to carry it out, so it is unlikely to happen.

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Woodlynde School is a private, co-ed college prep day school located in suburban Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, that serves intelligent, talented students with learning differences in grades K - 12. Woodlynde provides a comprehensive, evidence-based Kindergartenelementarymiddle and high school program in a challenging yet nurturing environment for students with average to above average cognitive abilities (IQ) who have language- or math-based learning differences (such as Dyslexia, Dysgraphia or Dyscalculia), Executive Function Challenges, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), or Auditory Processing Disorder. Even for those students without a diagnosed learning disability (LD), Woodlynde offers expert and caring teachers in small classroom settings that support academic success. Woodlynde School also offers a post-graduate (PG) program in partnership with Rosemont College as well as a regional Summer Camp for students who learn differently.