OPINION: Student agendas make ineffective hall passes

A current issued Dupont Manual agenda
A current issued Dupont Manual agenda
Vanessa Hutchison

Each morning, Manual students hear Dr. Newman’s reminder over the announcements to have an agenda when leaving class. The student handbook section of the school agenda outlines the hall pass expectations. 

“All students must have the hall pass located in this student planner, dated, signed out/in, destination, and initialed by their teacher to be excused from class for any reason. Students in halls without faculty/staff documented note are subject to disciplinary action,” it states on Page 32. 

But how effective is this hall pass system? Does the hall pass system facilitate or even encourage agenda stealing? And most importantly, why has a tool designed to aid in student productivity become nothing more than a glorified bathroom pass?

“I think it’s a little bit inconvenient sometimes,” Pepper Fox (12, VA) said of the agenda system. 

It seems some teachers also view the system as inconvenient, and according to students, several teachers don’t bother to sign the agendas. Instead, they tell students to fill it out themselves or to just take it with them when leaving class to go to the restroom. 

“Most of my teachers will just allow students to go out into the halls without actually signing the pass,” said Aeiris Asantewa (11, HSU), “I don’t think many actually rely on the agenda as a frequent method of allowing students to go out in the halls.”

A downside of this system is that students are only given one agenda. With many students choosing to use two backpacks, one for red days and one for white days, it can be hard to keep track of agendas amidst all the other moving pieces. While this feels frustrating to students, some faculty members see it as a benefit of the agenda system. 

“If you want to leave the room you need to have the responsibility to not lose your agenda,” Mr. Scott Hutchins (Physics) said, noting that this can help students plan more carefully. 

Manual students are resourceful though and have found work-arounds for when they don’t have their agenda on them. Asantewa notes that she often lends out her agenda to friends who don’t have theirs on them. 

“I’m pretty sure more people use my agenda than I do,” she said.

Some teachers also try to help students out by having classroom agendas on hand for students who may have forgotten or lost theirs. But that leads to another issue with the agenda system:  agenda thieves.

Even without malicious intent, when 2,000 students and teachers have identical hall passes, one could easily mistake someone else’s agenda for their own. 

“I’ve also had my agenda stolen multiple times. The agenda that I have at this very moment isn’t even mine because I’ve had to steal someone else’s agenda,” Luke Boggs (10, J&C) said. Normally rule-abiding students resort to stealing agendas themselves when they are stuck in the bathroom after their own agenda has been taken.

Agendas stealing can come in many forms. Snatching a seemingly abandoned agenda, or forgetting you used a teacher’s agenda and placing it in your backpack instead are just a few examples. Borrowing, losing and stealing agendas are practices that are all too commonplace at Manual. 

“My agenda is currently missing,” Hutchins said, “It just sits over there by the wall so I don’t always pay as much attention as I probably should.”

Hutchins doesn’t think that anyone has stolen his agenda on purpose, but rather unassumingly put it in their backpack after borrowing it. As all agendas are identical, it is not hard to imagine someone making this simple mistake.

Similar mishaps occur in restrooms quite frequently. “I’m prancing about the hallways and I go to the bathroom and I set my agenda down on, like, the door or the floor. And then I walk back and my agenda’s gone,” Boggs said. 

The shelves under the mirror at the restroom’s entrance are handy places to rest agendas when going about your business, however it is all too easy to accidentally pick up the wrong one in a stack of identical notebooks when exiting.

It’s a very catastrophic feeling, to be honest, because you lost something that’s yours and that’s never a great feeling,”

— Luke Boggs

It is especially difficult to keep track of agendas when they are constantly being shared and exchanged between teachers and students or classmates and friends. Agendas make multiple treks across the school each day, and the opportunity for misplacement is high. When students are not familiar with a borrowed agenda, it is easy to mistake it with someone else’s.

This is the worst case scenario for students who use their agendas as they are intended. Agendas are helpful tools, containing a red/white day calendar, school rules and bell schedule, and most importantly, a planner with space to keep track of due dates and tests. However, students who use them as more than a bathroom pass are deterred from doing so by the risk of having them go missing. Instead they opt for other planners or their phones to stay organized, just adding to the number of items students have to buy at the start of the school year and schlep around throughout it.

While there are many downsides of the agendas as hall pass system, there are benefits as well.

“I like the uniformity of everybody using the same hall pass,” Hutchins said.

In an emailed statement to Manual RedEye, Principal Newman said that a uniform system was the goal when creating the policy. If each teacher has a different hall pass system, that can create confusion that leads to students and staff being unsure of how to handle the situation.

“When there are differences in expectations, there is room for confusion and/or bias, which can ultimately result in student referrals. This is something that we are actively trying to avoid,” he said. 

According to Dr. Newman, the hall pass policy is part of Manual’s Positive Behavior Intervention System (PBIS). 

“The purpose of PBIS is to help ensure that all students know expectations for various events and spaces,” he said, “This in turn is supposed to help remove confusion regarding different expectations (example – people using different types of hall passes and/or different teachers having different expectations for hall passes).”

Requiring students to have agendas is also a safety strategy. Many Manual policies such as only exiting and entering through certain doors, wearing ID’s and, yes, carrying agendas in the halls, are to keep students safe by having clear ways to identify who is supposed to be in the building and who is not. 

“I feel like the teachers don’t really care as much as the hall monitors do,” Fox said. But this is because it is the job of the hall monitor, or security personnel, to keep track of people in the halls and make sure that they all belong in the building. Being able to quickly scan a crowded hallway for students with the tell-tale red and white book in their hands is much easier than looking for one of 40 different hall passes a teacher might have chosen.

While safety should be of utmost importance, the effectiveness of agendas as hall passes is still questionable. Should a productivity tool be so easy to misplace? Is it hygienic to take a productivity tool in and out of the bathroom so frequently? There is also a question of privacy. If students do use their agenda to organize their busy lives, should that information be left out in the open within restrooms? Is there a better way to have uniformity and understand expectations without a fluid exchange of what should be personal items? 

“Why do you have to take a book around to walk around the hallway and why can’t we just have a normal hall pass?” Boggs said. In fact, issuing each teacher a hall pass could be a possible solution that would enable PBIS to continue its purpose of maintaining continuity in expectations, but would lessen the chance students would lose important materials in the restroom. While there is likely no perfect hall pass strategy, the agenda method may merit further evaluation.

About the Contributors
Isabella Edghill, Webmaster
Isabella Edghill is Webmaster for Manual RedEye this year. She enjoys reading and playing the violin, and is passionate about exploring issues around diversity, identity and empowerment. You can contact her at [email protected].
Vanessa Hutchison for Manual RedEye. You can contact her at [email protected].
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