When did going to the bathroom become big brother?

As a former teacher, I get it that kids need to relive themselves just like us adults.

The main rule was when you left the room, you signed out on a paper with the time departed, destination and when you came back you signed back in. I did review the list with colleagues and was required to turn them in to the office to see if there were genuine student concerns or kids just taking advantage of being out of the room to mess around.

I never was accused of acting like ‘big brother’ or obsessing over my student’s restroom needs.

Now, in the digital age we have e-hallpass.  From what I understand, now students download the app and make a request to leave the classroom from a phone or tablet. The request waits for teacher approval and there is a check out/in system that is recorded on the teacher’s system. If a student is gone for a long period of time, an administrator may be notified. This is so important during fire drills, lockdowns and other safety issues where student location is essential.

Some schools are using the data for each student’s comings and goings so school leaders can see pass histories or look for patterns. Some students see this as an invasion of privacy. They have even begun an online petition to remove this technology from schools.

I used tech when I was a teacher for class discipline and to notify parents and students about what was worked on in class and any homework. I found it much easier to text a parent than getting them on the phone and most were cooperative and thankful I was invested in their child’s success. I used YouTube and Google Classroom for lessons. The only data I ever tracked for students were absences/tardies and of course their grades.

I can see where certain students and parents might not be ok being tracked by this type of software. A girl on her monthly cycle may take more restroom trips. There are also students with personal physical and mental health issues that may need to go to a nurse or the office and do not want that information getting out.

“Many parents are upset about the lack of privacy involved with the data going into private corporate hands and how their education is being outsourced to tech companies,” said Leonie Haimson, head of the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy, an advocacy group that gives parents guidance on navigating school data issues.

Federal laws put some limits on how software is used by schools. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 limits how schools can share educational records and gives parents the right to review them. The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act has rules that apply to companies collecting data about kids under 13. However, under the law, schools can consent on behalf of parents for educational products. The Federal Trade Commission is considering updating COPPA.

Parents also have rights under the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment, which requires schools to get parental permission for any federally funded student survey or sensitive topic evaluations, such as religion, political views or income. But for the most part, schools are not legally obligated to get permission from parents to use specific software in classrooms, or to let students opt out.

The makers of e-hallpass say the purpose behind the app is to keep track of students in an emergency, decrease vaping, identify vandals and crack down on truancy. It also ensures certain students or groups involved in bullying or gangs are not in the hallways.

With all the stories about data collection and breaches, I get parents being concerned about their kid’s privacy. However, do these same parents know all the apps on their children’s phones and laptops? Parents and attorneys are talking about e-hallpass being like ‘bathroom big brother’ and taking their grievances to the PTA. This tech is here to stay, it has legal precedent and court battles and petitions will likely fall on deaf ears. If a student is taking a long time out of the classroom, just talk to them privately and find out what is going on. If they are messing around, it will be found out eventually. If there is a problem, a quality educator will show empathy and help a student.

Even if the app were to go away, you child is still being tracked by the old paper and pencil system. These forms are checked and analyzed for a lot of the same things this software does; keeping kids safe.

To learn about e-hallpass, click here

7 thoughts on “When did going to the bathroom become big brother?

  1. As an educator and a parent, I can see both sides to this. Your point about females who are on their menstrual cycle or having certain conditions that necessitate more frequent trips to the restroom is well made. I do believe at some point , we have to stem the data collection and get back to the human element. I am aware of the stories who frequently leave my room, I discuss it with the nurse and their parents, without technology. In all things, there has to be balance.


  2. My I personally feel that schools are becoming too reliant on technology when old fashioned personal communication would better equip our kids to deal with the real world. Technology has a place but this is too far.


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