Editorial: We’ll pass

West High should get rid of the new hallway and bathroom pass policy.


Eva Jordan

West High should get rid of the new hallway and bathroom pass policy.

Returning from winter break, West students were met with the new bathroom pass system. The passes were not popular, with many students expressing their concerns and frustrations. Nevertheless, the system has remained in place, with the administration arguing that the passes help control hallway traffic and allow teachers to identify who should be in the hallways and who is skipping class. However, the pass system has not done much to address the issue of students skipping class. Instead, the pass system negatively impacts the student body as a whole while unintentionally targeting marginalized groups. Therefore, the policy should be discarded. 

While students’ concerns about the hygiene of the passes have gone unaddressed, COVID-19 is still a prevalent issue, and the pass system is undeniably unhygienic. According to a study conducted by the American Society for Microbiology, only 70% of people wash their hands after going to the bathroom, and only 50% of people do so properly. With the bathroom passes, students who are a part of the other 50% will be immediately reexposed to the germs left behind by other students. Some teachers wipe their pass down occasionally, but many just leave it hanging in a corner. This is especially concerning because the omicron variant can last up to eight days on plastic, according to a study by the Kyoto Prefectural University of Medicine. Just one student with the variant can expose anyone who uses the pass for the next week. 

Another issue with the pass system is the one-at-a-time rule, which negatively affects transgender, non-binary and assigned female at birth students at West. The intention behind this was to encourage students to keep their bathroom trips short, but for some students, this is not an option. According to the GLSEN 2019 National School Climate Survey, 82.1% of binary transgender students and 48.9% of non-binary students avoided gender-segregated bathrooms. Many transgender and non-binary students at West must take long trips to either the art hallway or the health office to use a gender-neutral bathroom. The nature of the pass can make these students feel guilty about using their preferred bathroom or discourage them from doing so. Also, while pee can be held, the same cannot be said for menstrual blood. And while no teacher would force a student on their period to stay in class, menstruating students should not be forced to tell their teacher that they are on their period. 

 The WSS Editorial Board is also concerned that it is not being equally enforced. Many board members are frequently in the hallways without a pass due to taking Kirkwood classes or having an open period, and most have yet to be asked for a pass. Out of 32 members, the only board member who said they had been stopped is a person of color. This observation is consistent with the data. In the 2020 School Climate Survey, 30% of Black students reported that teachers did not treat everyone in class equally, which only 19% of white students believed. These statistics and the Black Lives Matter protests held at our school in November show that racial profiling is still an issue at West High. 

The pass system also fails to meaningfully address the issue of skipping. Instead of addressing the causes that lead students to skip class, the hall pass system tries to address the effects, skipping students increasing hallway traffic. Most proven strategies to decrease skipping class involve addressing the factors that cause students to skip, by doing things like making interpersonal connections between students and staff. New York City schools found having mentors work with struggling students added nine days of attendance on average. However, instead of encouraging students to form better relationships with the staff, the hall pass system promotes animosity between the two groups. 

The bathroom pass system comes with too many negative consequences for the student body as a whole and especially for certain communities of students. It also has had very few positive effects, failing to even address the issues that caused administrators to enact it. There has been an understanding since junior high school that students can manage their own time and know when it is appropriate to use the bathroom, and the school signaling it no longer considers this to be the case is insulting to the vast majority of students who have been using the bathroom responsibly. The positives do not outweigh the negatives of the pass system, so West High School should drop the policy.