School Silliness: The 15 Minute Late Rule

“If the teacher is 15 minutes late to class then the students can legally leave.”

There is a persistent, and frequently quoted, idea in school that if a teacher is 15 minutes or more late to class, then the students can legally get up and leave. Some variations have 20 or 30 minutes instead.

Guess what? IT’S A MYTH!

Obscure Origins

Supposedly this began at some college or university, and indeed, professors can be delayed for any number of reasons (they do more than just teach), but I’ve never seen any official higher education policy stating such a rule. Perhaps there was some college or university that had or has such a rule, but never in my experience. If a professor ever had to cancel class, then they would’ve let the students know by some means. For example, I’ve had professors email the class saying that it was cancelled and even some leave sticky notes on the classroom door if it was at the last minute. We came to class, saw the note, and promptly turned around and went home. However, bear in mind that the rules are different in higher education since you’re dealing with adults. From what I can tell, in all instances, it’s always been one of those ‘unspoken’ rules. In other words, never “official college/university policy.”

Even at that, I’ve never seen a bunch of college students quote the 15 minute late rule because most of the time, we just didn’t care. If we’re paying tons of money to be there at school, then it matters little about whether or not the professor is 15 minutes or an hour late. We just find a way to make use of the free time.

As far as public K-12 schools are concerned, there’s absolutely never been any such “15 minutes late” official policy at any school I’ve worked or taught at. I seriously doubt it is/was an actual policy at any school because it would be incredibly stupid and probably illegal. Schools and the staff are responsible for the safety of the students. We’re dealing with minors and we need to know where the students are at all times. That’s why teachers get upset when you disappear from class for those nice, long 20 minute bathroom breaks. In loco parentis ring any bells? But hey, I’m no lawyer or policymaker.

Recent Rumors

No doubt this myth has been around since before I was even born, but it actually came up recently with a former student of mine.

One day this former student strolls in during lunch and proceeds to educate me about the 15 minute late rule because he thinks it’s some kind of obscure secret. He tells me that one of his science teachers was late for class, but, much to his chagrin, the teacher arrived before the rule went into effect. So sad. 😦 He prattles on about the particulars of the rule because he’s also under the impression that he has a genius-level intellect, mind you. The big surprise came when he also stated that it was an official Oregon State law.

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Yeaaah…show me the exact Oregon law that says that, Bro!

Naturally, I was quite incredulous, although I may have believed it in my youth. However, just in case there was some kernel of truth to this, I checked the Oregon Revised Statutes (ORS) and the Oregon Administrative Rules (OAR) databases. Thankfully, we live in the marvelous Information Age and governments have taken some clumsy steps to digitize their bureaucracies. Subsequently, the wonders of the internet allow us to quickly access government documents! After maybe 3 minutes of super-hard and time-consuming research, I verified that there is NO SUCH LAW in the State of Oregon. I may be an idiot, but I’m a well-educated idiot.

Here’s the thing. This student is what I like to call the Dunning-Kruger Student or Ultracrepidarian. This is a presumptuous person who tries to overly compensate for their deficiencies and/or give advice beyond their realm of knowledge. (More on that type of student in a later post). These types of people are frequently known to tell lies, exaggerations, or otherwise make outlandish claims in order to make themselves stand out. Boy, have I heard some whoppers!

Regarding my former student, I suspect he does it for attention. Every time I’ve tried to verify one of his claims, it comes up as false or severely twisted beyond reality. Whenever I try to call him out on his crap, he just denies it. Of course, his version is always the correct one!

As a result of this trend, I’m very disinclined to believe much of what he tells me. The more ridiculous his claim seems, the more likely it is to be false. It’s a bit like the boy who cried wolf. I’ve repeatedly made it clear that if he wants to be taken seriously, then he needs to start being honest and genuine. Sadly, he doesn’t seem to be listening. He’s too distracted by his own awe-inspiring genius, I guess.

It just Won’t Go Away

I suppose some urban legends and myths are so enduring that they just will not die. No doubt this fiction of the 15 minute rule will continue on for generations to come. Anyway, just so you know, there’s no actual rule which states that if a teacher is 15 minutes late, then the students can legally leave class or school.

In contrast, some students frequently take 15 minute (or more) bathroom breaks, but that’s for another time.

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