LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- A longstanding but little-know policy in the Pulaski County Special School District tells parents "get your kids to school on time, or you may be volunteering some of your time."
Elementary school administrators in the state's third-largest district are allowed to give parents an option when their children are tardy for school five times. Language in some school handbooks requires parents to serve two hours of volunteer service during school after that fifth tardy slip.
"The idea behind it is that elementary school students are not responsible typically for getting themselves to school on time," said Deb Roush, spokesperson for the district.
To district leaders, Life demands on-time performance and students need to learn that lesson early.
But those same leaders don't want to punish kids or take them away from class when it's simply a case of mom or dad chronically making the drop-off late.
"If it is in fact not the students fault, this gives the parent the opportunity the chance to volunteer so that their student doesn't have to go to detention," said Roush.
A parent within the district sent THV11 a screenshot of a letter from a student handbook. Roush provided a policy sheet from Pine Forest Elementary in Maumelle that had similar language.
In both cases, the policy says parents are required to help out doing things like reading books in class, or helping landscape a playground, Roush stresses it's not a requirement. It's designed to start a conversation with the family and find a solution.
"It's only an option," she said adding the parent could choose after-school detention for their child. It could also lead to a discussion about providing busing for the student. "We consider it out of the box thinking and we're proud of it."
The policy only applies to non-excused tardiness. Trips to doctors and dentists don't count toward the limit before the policy kicks in.
Roush also adds that they are flexible when it comes to working with busy parents when their kids end up late too often, but the message is clear. It instills a message of responsibility for students through their parents while keeping kids in class.
"Our goal is to keep students in the classroom," said Roush. "This is part of that.
The two other large districts in the metro area, Little Rock and North Little Rock, do not have similar policies. A spokesperson with the state Board of Education said policies like this are all local decisions and they don't track if any other districts use a similar system.