New Hall Pass System Takes Aim At Bathroom Fights

FORT EDWARD, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Fort Edward School Superintendent Mark Bessen wants parents to know something. No, their kids aren’t being stopped from using the bathroom.

On Tuesday, Bessen responded to concerns sent to NEWS10 by a parent whose child attends Fort Edward schools. The issue at hand was a new bathroom pass introduced at a recent school assembly, which Bessen says was created to discourage abuse of bathrooms that were leading to trouble.

“We’ve had situations where kids are texting each other in the bathrooms, and we’ve had a few fights, and kids don’t feel comfortable going to the bathroom. So basically we’ve tried to do different things to make the kids understand that this is not a clubhouse,” said Bessen.

The pass lists the five school days of a given week, each one split into two boxes; one for the morning, one for the afternoon. When a student has to use the restroom during class, they get the appropriate box checked, meaning that’s the one time they can use the bathroom during class in that half of the day.

Bessen said that a few confused or concerned parents had spoken to Fort Edward about the rule, with some thinking that the hall pass meant students could only use the bathroom twice during a school day. This isn’t the case. Outside of the classroom, when moving between the day’s activities, students can use the facilities as often as they want.

“We did the math,” Bessen said. “There are about 12 times a day that a child has the opportunity to use the restroom.”

Additionally, Fort Edward knows that there are students for whom two bathroom breaks during class legitimately aren’t enough, whether due to medical conditions, anxiety, or other factors. There have been conversations with parents, and even doctor’s notes received, to ensure that a policy meant to stop kids from avoiding the classroom doesn’t keep others from getting their needs met.

At the small and close-knit district, teachers know who those kids are, too. In many cases, faculty know who needs extra bathroom breaks, and who is more likely to be trying to sneak away from class. At a district where faculty know students one-on-one, Bessen and teachers can enforce a policy like this to stop trouble, without taking resources away from kids who need them.

“I’ve even had some kids who are very very shy, and have a hard time asking to use the restroom if they need to,” Bessen raised as an example. “I’ve told them, ‘You just tell the teacher you have to meet with me or (Fort Edward K-12 Principal John Godfrey), and there are bathrooms near the offices you can use.”

Bessen likened the system to ones used by schools in the past, where teachers would write down the names of students who had to use the bathroom during class in a book. Multiple teachers would all have access to the same books. If a student was clearly asking to use the bathroom constantly, it would be grounds to send them to the nurse to see if something was wrong.

The effort is in its early stages, but so far, the district is seeing fewer results. Fewer students are using the bathroom as a place to hide and text their friends, and there have been fewer altercations between students as well.

“We’re more in tune with who’s going where when and why. They know they’re being watched. The vast majority of kids are doing the right thing.”