OLCHS Introduces E-Hallpass System


Ash Argueta, Staff Writer

With new technology being invented and utilized daily throughout the world, this modernization of our daily tasks has spread to schools. Similarly to how we now use iPads to complete assignments as opposed to traditional paper and pencil methods, we now have entered this controversial realm of attempting to streamline the way we get around school- using virtual hall passes.


“As a school, we are always looking for ways to make our school safer for staff and students,” said Dr. Jeanna Lietz, Oak Lawn Community High School principal.  “A staff member had told us about another school that was using E-Hallpass so we decided to look into it.  E-Hallpass allows OLCHS to monitor hallway traffic, set limits for the number of students at specific locations, and limit the number of hallways passes created at a given time.  If there were an emergency, such as a lockdown, we would be able to know within seconds which students were not in their classrooms and find them to get them to safety.”


When OLCHS introduced the E-Hallpass system, I remember immediately feeling annoyed. Why did a system that worked well and was convenient have to be changed? In the past, all we students did was raise our hand and ask, “May I go to the bathroom?” to which the teacher would reply “Yes.” When students need to go to the bathroom, they must use their iPad or phone. Choosing to use a phone usually warrants a “We don’t need our phones out” from their teacher, even though phones are undeniably more convenient to carry around with you.


According to Lietz, bringing these devices into the bathrooms is part of the protocol. When asked if this is required, Lietz stated, “Yes. This can be their school-issued iPad or their cell phone. Most female bathrooms have a ledge/shelf outside of the stalls where students can place their iPad while they use the restroom.  We are working to get shelves installed in the male bathrooms as well.” However, this raises questions about sanitation issues. Where will boys put their iPads if there are no shelves in the bathrooms yet? On the floor? And what about the well-known fact that bathrooms are covered in various strains of bacteria such as E. coli? In an interview, author and microbiologist Jason Tetro explained, “Many bathroom surfaces, such as urinals, toilet seats, handles, sinks, and faucets, are covered in germs, and the [risk of] even more contamination of our phones becomes greater.” This concern is especially true in the days of a pandemic when we should be extra cautious about spreading germs. 


Setting the hygiene issues aside- the inconvenience of over-modernization has proven to limit students’ bathroom use. I have never used the E-Hallpass system to create a pass to the bathroom because it was such a hassle. The thought of interrupting a teacher’s lecture by making them walk across the classroom to log into their computer, deal with inevitable tech issues, and then have to do the same thing when I get back to end the pass has led me to ignore my physical needs and tell myself “I guess I could wait until lunch…”. 


Senior student Suzette Castro states, “Many of my teachers also dislike having to accept the passes. It’s a really tedious process for both the student and the teacher. A lot of the times you have to stop them in the middle of a lecture or the bathrooms are ‘full’ and you go and there’s no one there.” Senior Adam Trojak agrees to an extent, saying “It’s annoying when teachers don’t sign you back into the room though or when the bathroom is full. How does a bathroom get full? I’ve never seen more than 3 people in a bathroom unless it’s a passing period. Fix that and I think the system is okay.”


I remember one time I was in class, and at around 2:15 pm I finally decided that today would be the day I finally will try this system out. The website would not load, so I sat there attempting to refresh the page for around five minutes. When the page finally loaded, it told me that the bathrooms- every single bathroom on every floor- was filled. So I waited. Every time I refreshed and tried again, I had the same problem. I never even got to use the bathroom because the bathroom by the cafeteria was locked for “safety reasons” on my way out of the building. 


Safety is a major concern of everyone, students and staff alike. Sure, problematic activity does occur in bathrooms, but this effort to curb the behavior of a few has detrimental effects on the majority of students who just have to perform a required bodily function. When asked about this system’s benefits, Lietz claims, “I feel that the system has stopped some students from abusing the pass system and either going to locations they shouldn’t have been or spending too much time out of class needlessly.” Although this is a valid argument and is undeniably true in the case of a select few, many students have expressed to me that the time spent attempting to deal with the technology has taken more time away from their learning than actually being out of class in the bathroom.


The E-Hallpass is not only used for bathrooms though. Staff can create passes for students to visit them, such as counselors. Senior student Abdur-Rahman Hussein asserts, “Personally I don’t like the new e-hall pass. It has a great concept of having to do away with paper but when a teacher or counselor requests you to be somewhere it isn’t too noticeable. If we still had the paper passes then I would know that I need to be somewhere.” Dr. Lietz says,  “Sometimes teachers and students do not see that they have a pass notification/request waiting for them.  Hopefully, people will get used to checking more often for notifications.”


One student who has asked to remain anonymous reports, “I get so nervous having to set it up. I have a lot of anxiety about that loud noise notification thing going off in a silent classroom and I sometimes just sit there and wait for someone to talk so it feels like an okay time to make a pass.”


With so many complaints from so many people with various degrees of frustration, there is a wide spectrum of how this E-Hallpass system affects everyone individually. When I saw that the app was rated an astonishingly low 1.1 stars on the App Store, I created a poll of my own that was presented to a random group of 50 students with an even distribution of grade levels. Of those surveyed, 43 voted that they wished our school went back to using paper passes, 6 students did not respond, and only one student, Stanislaw Hyrczyk, said that he prefers the E-Hallpass system. When I messaged Hyrczyk to inquire about why he chose that option, he simply replied, “It’s aight”. Well then.