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“Official pass”?

Getting a written pass on a sticky note, lined paper or even a piece discarded homework is not uncommon. When students need to leave class, teachers often grab the first available writing surface and jot down instructions or destinations for the student. Without warning, though, and seemingly without any sort of uniform enforcement, certain places on campus will only accept “official” passes.  The blue call or transfer pass is the proper OGHS pass according to the Teacher Handbook. Although the passes are briefly mentioned in this volume there has been no enforcement of this policy, nor have teachers been provided with the “official” materials. As a result, students have been denied access to resources, like the library and computer lab, because they don’t have the right piece of paper. While official policies are helpful, when the enforcement of those policies disregards student learning, they no longer serve a functional purpose.

Frustrations have arisen regarding passes because teachers tend to scribble their initial and the students’ destination, but never the time or date. This makes it difficult for those on the receiving end of the pass to understand what the students should be doing. Additionally, security struggles to keep students en route to their destinations if they don’t have evidence of where and when they should be going somewhere. In order to abide by the school policies if a group is sent to the library, nurse or another classroom all the students who are going need to have their names on the pass or one pass per student.

Previously, when the nurse had been flooded by students requesting ice, band-aids and other attention, concerns were presented at Curriculum Council. This council brings together the lead teachers from each department, and is where many school issues are addressed.  The teachers were able to discuss the concerns presented by the nurse, and a procedure for sending students to seek medical attention was established. The expectations were communicated to all teachers in each department and the policy has been successfully upheld.

Unlike the situation with the nurse, there was no discussion or even acknowledgement of a problem with passes. Teachers had no idea that their current practices were unacceptable, and were shocked to have students return to class, their missions not accomplished. In many cases, when students returned to class, they did so with their “unacceptable” pass stapled to a typed note, citing established policy and Assistant Principal Jamie Lee’s directive, to deny students with passes that are not on official forms.

“I go by the book, the student handbook is like the Bible of Orange Glen. I will get a post-it note with no names, no date,and  no time. It was a problem,” Library clerk, Eileen Santero, said.

These official forms, though, seem to be a mystery. While some teachers have the small blue pads, others do not. The teacher handbook identifies passes in section 204.0, and states simply that, “No student shall leave class or an activity during school hours without a proper pass. Requests for passes should be carefully judged in order to cut down the number of students leaving classes. Each student must have in his/her possession a valid teacher issued pass when out of class.” There is no mention of a specific form, and what is deemed as “proper” is never defined.

While there is no denying that incomplete information or unsigned passes can lead to problems for security and other teachers, suddenly enacting a policy that has been largely disregarded without any warning is not the way to fix the issue. Additionally, when the so-called policy is not enforced consistently, it makes things challenging for teachers to follow. Several teachers have had students sent back from the library, for lacking the correct pass, while others have continued to send students with sticky notes, scraps of paper and make-shift hall passes, without any issue. Teachers agree that this is just wasting both the teacher and the students’ productive time, with students walking back and teachers having to stop teaching or working with other students to fill out an official pass, if they even have one.

The teacher handbook, furthermore, does not identify an official pass as a requirement for use of the library, either. Outlined in section 705.2, the handbook simply limits the number of students to five or fewer and requires that they are only there for a portion of the class period. The handbook states only that students, “may go to the library on passes,” without designating what those passes should look like.

“I personally have been guilty of writing things on a piece of paper to send a kid back to class. I don’t have any passes in my drawer and when I went to the office to get more, they were out. And I don’t mind a teacher calling me and saying the student is coming over,” Library media technician, Kerri Silverwood said.

While there has been no change in the school policy regarding passes, the enforcement of the policy seems to have become more strict–but not consistently. Some students continue to get turned away from the library or computer lab, while others are granted access, regardless of what kind of paper their passes are written on.

“No one will be turned away, or should be turned away, if they have an alternative pass,” Assistant Principal Jamie Lee said.