Implementation of e-hallpass causes concern to McLean community

Students and teachers adjust to the continuance of e-hallpass into the first few weeks of the school year


Students are very familiar with this screen, showing them that a location around the school is filled to max capacity and they cannot go. Cartoon by Liz Nedelescu

As students returned to the McLean High School building for the 2022-2023 school year, they were greeted with the news that e-hallpass would be permanent.

E-hallpass is a fairly new online system that acts similarly to physical hall passes. Students create a pass on their own device to go to the bathroom, water fountain, or anywhere else, which teachers sign out in order for the student to leave their classroom. The digital application can be accessed on students’ computers or mobile devices.

This is nothing new for returning McLean students, who were accustomed to electronically signing out of classes during the trial run of e-hallpass near the end of last school year. However, there is a big change in the execution of e-hallpass this year, as the administration has placed an emphasis on its use in classrooms.

Teachers have expressed varying opinions on the implementation of e-hallpass. Most see the software as a nuisance and disruption to their classroom; however, some teachers believe this inconvenience is a small price to pay.

“I think that as with anything else, when you create a new tool, there’s always an unintended consequence,” government and history teacher Joshua Henry said. “But even with that drawback, when you look at the positive benefits that this system has, I think that they far outweigh [the negatives].”

Still, other teachers wholeheartedly disagree with the e-hallpass system.

“If there are just a few students abusing the bathroom privilege, then everyone else also shouldn’t be punished,” computer science teacher Lesley Frew said. “So I just feel like it’s a punishment to everyone else to have to sit there and enter a pass to the bathroom.”

Frew, like a few other teachers, set the app to auto approve passes in order to minimize distractions while still adhering to McLean policy.

A majority of the student body tend to share Frew’s point of view.

“E-hallpass… definitely causes a pause in the class flow,” senior Ava Valerio said. “If there is some sort of technological issue going on with e-hallpass that the teacher has to tend to, it interrupts my learning.”

The mobile app’s 1500 reviews on the app store reveal a 1.2 star rating. Students’ hatred of the system has gone beyond reviews, with students starting petitions against it on in Loudoun County from Heritage High School and Independence High School.

In the McLean community, parents, teachers, and students alike are starting to get worried about the tracking feature of the app and its imposition on students.

“As far as I know, there’s no way for a student to opt out of [e-hallpass] which is against county policy,” Frew said.

The app has also raised questions regarding students’ rights to use the bathroom. The max capacity feature prevents students from going to a certain location if too many students are signed out at a time.

“Sometimes I try to use e-hallpass and it will say that maximum capacity has been reached for over an hour,” Valerio said. “When this happens, the maximum capacity limit does annoy me because students should be able to use the bathroom when they need to.”

While privacy and bathroom access are legitimate concerns, some say the app has gone further to alarm the McLean community, raising medical concerns.

“As a diabetic person, I have to use the bathroom often if my sugar levels are high,” freshman Lu Valenti said. “And when the pass capacity is full I often have to wait [a long time] for there to be availability.”

Valenti says that when they needed help for a diabetes-related issue, they were denied service by a nurse due to the absence of an e-hallpass.

“If the pass was not needed for me to be attended to by the nurse then my medical problem would have been taken care of sooner and I wouldn’t have had to put up with 2 hours of complications,” Valenti said.

The flaws and controversies surrounding the system has the McLean community questioning the worth of e-hallpass.

“We pay thousands of dollars for e-hallpass,” said Frew. “I just feel like we’re not getting what we’re paying for.”