Picture reaching for a bright yellow hall pass, promising your teacher you will return from the bathroom within minutes, even signing your name on a sheet by the door to prove it. Perhaps you do go to the bathroom for a while, but only as a pitstop on the way to the vending machine before taking a few dozen laps around the halls and back to class for the final five minutes.
In the aftermath of a virtual school year, some students may have retained the habits established during the 2020-2021 school year, including skipping.
From ignoring Teams meetings to now wandering off to the vending machines, skipping has become increasingly more common.
According to PBS News, the national average of absences in the 2013-2014 school year was 13%. Out of the 1871 students that attend Cambridge, that would be about 243 students who skip on average.
Compared to the 2018-2019 school year, the number of absence-related disciplines per week has doubled from three to six, said Assistant Principal Darius Maize in an email.
He said this may be because “students have become accustomed to coming and going at their own discretion.”
While it is hard to pinpoint exactly why students ditch class, psychology teacher Sarah Rhodes pointed to aspects of social psychology as a potential explanation. More specifically, she looks to the concepts of “social trap” and “normative influence” for answers.
“Social trap” refers to engaging in behaviors that have negative long-term effects for immediate satisfaction; for example, scrolling through social media in the bathroom while failing to acknowledge that parents are notified when their student is absent.
On the other hand, “normative influence” states that people will occasionally change their behavior to fit in with what their peers are doing.
In other words, skipping can be attributed to short-term thinking and peer pressure.
“It can be tempting when you hear your friends are all going out to Publix to stay in class and focus,” said senior Mikolaj Baran.
On the other hand, Senior Kalev Martinson said that “peer pressure is not a reasonable excuse for people to skip as there is no potential benefit to doing so.”
Baran and Martinson have their own theories on why students skip; however, both said schools should be more lenient with their attendance policies.
Martinson in particular believes other students should have more agency over their education, and by extension their attendance. He said high school is meant to prepare students for college and “attendance doesn’t matter for college.”
“Skipping itself isn’t good, but [it] can be used to maximize a person’s time,” he said, adding that people who aim to get work done during time spent out of class opt to ditch class in the media center despite the sign-ins required for contact tracing.
Media specialist Benicia Ammons said that when students don’t sign in, she can tell they are skipping. When that happens, media specialist Laura Morgan will search that particular student using his or her name or student ID number.
In response to students who believe that they should not be required to attend class, Maize said that college students don’t have their parents or institution telling them to attend class but that in high school, “the school is the parent.”
By contrast, Baran asserts that students may skip class to avoid the stress and demands of school, saying that, “the most common place to skip is by leaving school or going to the cafeteria.”
A potential solution to both theories, said Baran, is “to be productive at school so important things will always be out of the way by the time you go home to relax.”