(SAN ANTONIO) — Brooke Loeffler, a 6-year-old kindergarten student, was put in detention after her parents dropped her off late to Olympia Elementary School in San Antonio for a third time.
Brooke’s parents, Brad and Erika Loeffler, who both work full-time and have a newborn baby with medical issues at home, say they both thought that it was unfair to punish a small child for something she has no control over.
In fact, Erika Loeffler says she offered to volunteer at the school doing anything from working with kids to cleaning tables, instead of having Brooke serve detention. “I’ll do the time,” Erika said.
“We tried to explain the situation to the vice principal and principal,” Erika Loeffler said. “They were very cold and not understanding of the circumstances.”
Steve Lindscomb, director of public information at Judson Independent School District, says that the tardy policy has been in effect for approximately three years, and each parent signs off on it when their child enrolls.
“Each year, parents are asked to look over the policy and sign it,” Lindscomb said. “We have the document that they (Brian and Erika) signed off on, and they also signed for the detention to go on.”
The school works with parents to make detention more doable. In the Loeffler case, Brooke Loeffler was allowed to split the hour detention into two days during the lunch period because she couldn’t stay after school when detention would normally take place. Also, she did not sit by herself either day. Her father sat with her the first day and her grandmother sat with her the second day.
“I’ll say that it sounds too young for detention, and that’s why we worked with the students and their parents, Lindscomb said. “But we do need to have some level of consistency because some parents would be upset that some people got a little attitude and some did not, but we do make allowances for age appropriate treatment.”
According to Ericka, a second grade elementary teacher, the school district was untruthful in their Facebook post about working with them.
“They were not working with us,” Erika said. “They first told us it would not count if one of us sat with her.”
The Loefflers told ABC News that the school has no absence policy, only a tardy policy, and that they might consider having to make Brooke skip a full day of school rather than be late and risk another detention. This, she says, is not a choice parents should have to make.
Kelly Reid, treasurer of the Parent Teacher Organization at Olympia Elementary School, warned that the Loefflers could face legal problems if they were to keep their daughter out of school.
Reid cited the school district handbook, which states, “a court of law may also impose penalties against both the student and his or her parents if a school-aged student is deliberately not attending school.” That clause can be invoked if a child misses 10 days in a six month period or three days in a four week period.
Erika Loeffler says that as an educator, she understands the tardiness rule, but she suggested implementing a positive reinforcement approach instead. In other words, instead of punishing late students, they could reward the ones who are consistently on time.
“She’s a very good student,” Brad Loeffler said about his daughter. “She never causes any trouble at school. According to her teacher, they use a color system to rate their performance of the day, and she [Brooke] always gets the top color or the one right below it. She’s very polite and shy to people she doesn’t know. I don’t think she has ever caused any trouble at all.”
However, Lindscomb explains that the policy is effective in reducing tardiness at Olympia.
“Definitely since the rule was put in place about three years ago they’ve cut tardies down from 90-95 percent, but that doesn’t mean we don’t work with each student in terms of age-appropriateness and family situation.”
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio