EAST MILLCREEK — Four Skyline High School students were placed in handcuffs and arrested Friday for refusing to disperse during a protest over tardy fees.
The students were released to the custody of their parents and not taken to juvenile detention.
The arrests Friday followed a protest by 75 to 100 students who walked out of class about 7:45 a.m. But rather than stage a peaceful protest, the group created a ruckus in the hallways.
"They acted in a very disruptive manner," said Granite School District spokesman Ben Horsley. "They were slamming doors, banging on lockers, going into classrooms, yelling."
The students were protesting a district policy in which students who are tardy to class can be fined up to $5.
"We are all getting unexcused absences for this, and we don't care, because we stand up for what we believe in. So it's all right. We don't like the tardy tickets," said sophomore Carissa Harward.
Some students say they become even more tardy to class when the hall monitor stops them to write a ticket or, on some occasions, they claim, pull students out of class.
"I understand that they want to cut down tardies, but they shouldn't come and get you out of class to give you a ticket when you already made it there," said student Lauren Zehnder.
Students said they could receive a ticket for being 30 seconds late, and sometimes receive tickets even when a teacher doesn't mark them tardy.
Horsley said the policy has been at the school for three years and at some other high schools in the district for up to 10 years.
The school resource officer was overwhelmed by the amount of students in the halls and called for backup, said Unified Police Lt. Justin Hoyal.
Within 10 to 15 minutes, officials were able to get the students to leave the building. Outside, police instructed the students to stop disrupting the rest of the school and meet with the principal in the school cafeteria.
"They were given the option of either returning to class or face consequences," Horsley said.
Four students continued the loud protest outside, however, and refused the officers' commands to stop. The students were handcuffed and placed under arrest for investigation of unlawful acts on school property, disorderly conduct and failure to disperse. The four were given citations to appear in court and released to the custody of their parents or guardians rather than being taken to detention.
The remaining students met in the cafeteria with the principal who told them there were more appropriate and civil ways to address their concerns.
"They told us we were doing it in the wrong form," said student Trent Ward.
The group agreed to pick five or six representatives to meet at a later time with the principal for a more in-depth discussion about the tardy policy, Horsley said. They then agreed to return to class. The protest lasted about an hour.
For about a decade, Horsley said the district has had a policy of charging students $5 for being tardy to class. Modifications have been made to the policy over the years, including giving the students the options of detention or working the fine off rather than paying. Students can also pay just $3 if they pay the fine within a week.
At Skyline, the policy has been extremely effective in reducing the number of tardy students, Horsley said. The number of tardies reported at the school dropped from about 25,000 per year three years ago to 11,000 per year currently.
"It's had a dramatic effect in curbing tardy behavior," he said. "This (policy) has been the most effective and incentivizing."
The goal of the fine was not to raise revenue for the school, Horsley said. All of the money collected goes back into paying for hall monitors and other resources aimed at curbing students being tardy.
Skyline High School has about 1,500 students in grades 10-12.