There are a lot of things you used to see in schools 20 years ago that you rarely see today. Traditional classroom favorites like AV carts and hand crank pencil sharpeners have all but vanished from the K-12 landscape, replaced by newer, more efficient tools. As technology has advanced and made previously manual processes more efficient, it’s only natural that the tools used in education would evolve as well. Yet, many schools are still holding on to outdated paper hall passes, despite there being a better alternative: the digital hall pass.
A digital hall pass provides an easier, safer, and more effective method for issuing and monitoring hall passes. Digital hall passes also help schools solve age-old problems associated with hall pass misuse, such as secret meetups and lost instruction time, as well as mitigate new ones, like curbing vaping and vandalism.
When a better way to do something comes along, it’s worth exploring if it might be time to make a change. Read on to learn more about digital hall passes and if they’re right for your school.
How do digital hall passes work?
A digital hall pass, also known as an electronic hall pass, is a software-based system that lets students request a hall pass electronically. Students request passes using an internet-connected electronic device, such as a laptop, desktop computer, iPad, or cell phone. The teacher receives the request on their device, and is able to approve or deny it with a click of a button. Conversely, a teacher can also issue a pass to a student without requiring a request.
Students with active passes are visible on a digital dashboard so staff and teachers can see all students using hall passes at any time. For example, if a student appears on a security camera in the hallway during class, staff can check the dashboard to verify that the student has a valid pass. Similarly, if a teacher notices a student in the hallway, they can check to see if the student is approved to be out of class or not. If a digital hall pass also offers a mobile app for faculty, teachers can conveniently use the app on their mobile devices instead of the web version.
What are the benefits of a digital pass system?
One of the more obvious benefits of a digital hall pass is that it eliminates the inefficiency and waste associated with paper passes. It also allows students to make requests—and teachers to approve or deny them—with greater ease and minimal disruption to instructional time.
The benefits of a digital hall pass system don’t end there, though. Digital hall passes also provide more visibility and control of student movement, improve school safety, and reduce risky student behaviors.
Better Visibility and Control of Student Movement
A digital hall pass system lets you know how many students are using hall passes at any given time. You can know which students are using passes and for which locations, so you can quickly verify that students who are somewhere outside the classroom have permission to be there. You can also determine if students may be meeting up in a location, like the bathroom, instead of attending class.
Some digital hall passes also offer advanced features to help control undesired student movement, like establishing limits on:
- How many passes can be in use at any given time
- How many passes are issued for a specific location at any one time, such as the bathroom
- How many times a student or group of students can be issued a hall pass in a given day
- Which students should not be issued hall passes at the same time
For example, if there are two or more students who aren’t supposed to have contact with each other or have formal “no contact” orders, a digital hall pass system can automatically deny the request of any of those students if one of them is already using a hall pass.
Improved School Safety
In the event of an emergency, such as a fire or a lockdown, digital hall passes give schools peace of mind that they know which students are out of class and where they are on campus. With this information available at a moment’s notice, they can quickly and confidently ensure everyone is accounted for.
Digital hall passes can improve safety in indirect ways as well. As was brought to light during the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, in February 2018, the rise in vaping among kids is also creating other safety concerns.
During the Parkland high school shooting, students and staff who tried to seek shelter in the bathrooms were unable to access them because they were locked to control the vaping problem among students. This was one of several safety failures cited in a detailed analysis of the event.
The practice of locking bathrooms to keep students from vaping—as well as preventing bullying, fighting, or vandalism—is a popular practice, but it also presents safety concerns. While digital hall passes alone can’t stop kids from vaping or other risky or undesirable behaviors, they can help schools address these issues without compromising safety.
“Electronic hall pass systems are one of the most cost-effective and practical school safety technologies available today. While more expensive technologies are required to holistically address some issues like student e-cigarette use, electronic hall pass systems can provide some of the best returns on the time, energy and budget required to utilize them.”
Reduction in Risky Student Behaviors
Because a digital hall pass system is always recording usage data, school principals and administrative leaders gain reliable and easily accessible records of student movement. These records make it easier to spot trends that could be influencing individual or collective student behavior.
For example, hall pass usage data makes it possible to identify students who are “frequent flyers” so appropriate action can be taken. If student behavioral issues are also found to correlate with excessive hall pass usage, school teams now have an electronic record they can share with the student and their family, instead of relying on anecdotal evidence.
Digital hall passes also let teachers place location and time limits on hall passes, so students can’t roam the halls or be out of class indefinitely. Should an incident occur, such as vandalism or vaping in the bathroom, these details help school leaders easily identify the students with hall passes to the bathroom at that time.
The reality is that students are going to misbehave and push the boundaries from time to time. However, when students know there’s an increased possibility they could be caught doing something they shouldn’t, they typically make better decisions.
Would your school benefit from digital hall passes?
If your school is anything like most schools today, you’re already facing some pretty big challenges, including making up for learning loss during the COVID pandemic, combatting the youth vaping epidemic, preventing bullying, and keeping your staff and students safe.
You may question why you’d prioritize switching to digital hall passes with everything else on your plate. But paper hall passes could be part of the problem.
A digital hall pass system isn’t a cure-all, but it is helping schools like yours address some of their most pressing problems by:
- Maximizing instructional time
- Limiting opportunities for vaping, bullying, and other misconduct
- Being better prepared for an emergency