School or Jail: How the School Guidelines Affect the Student Body

By Sanaa Taqvi, Staff Writer

As the first semester comes to a close, many students still have questions about the new policies put in place this year. In an effort to understand these policies, I asked Ms. Kat Hindmand, the Director of Climate and Culture at Payton, about them and their implementation. Ms. Kat stated that “none of the student policies we went over in Town Hall are new. These policies and laws were just not being enforced consistently, mainly due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The student and school policies are as follows:

Food – All items in vending machines accessible for student use must comply with CPS nutrition guidelines and state and federal laws including the one that says foods that “compete” with school lunch must meet certain nutritional requirements; fast food/take-out delivery does not.

Attendance – Attending school and all classes is a legal requirement in all states. Parents can actually be fined in Illinois if their minor children are truant. 

Research has shown that students who skip class are actually more likely to have more serious problems in the future. It also shows a clear relationship between student attendance and student achievement at all grade levels. Missing 10% (or just 2 days each month) of school can drastically affect a teen’s academic success. “Attendance is also an important life skill that will help you keep a job and graduate from college,” states Ms. Kat.

Elevators – “We have 1300 people in the building and only a little elevator space so we reserve that space for staff and students with physical challenges.”

Safety and Security – “It is imperative that we keep external doors closed and locked at all times. Providing building access to a person who is not authorized to be in the school puts the entire community at risk. This is why we do not want people opening doors for unknown individuals or propping doors open. We ask people to use certain entrances and exits because when people use external doors, they do not always close and lock automatically. If it is just two or three doors, Security can monitor the doors.”

Hall Passes – “Last year, there were numerous instances in which students were allowed to leave a classroom and then “went missing” for 20 – 30 minutes or longer or went to places they shouldn’t have, like the cafeteria. When we do not know where someone is for that long, or they are not where they are supposed to be, it is a safety issue.”

It turns out that having Hall Passes at Payton is also not new. Some of our teachers who have been at WPCP for several years have stated that they have been used before. 

“Having these structures in place helps keep everyone safe physically. When students and staff feel safe, they feel more secure mentally and are better able to focus on learning and teaching.”

The student body had a lot to say about these policies. 

When asked if they believed that Payton’s elevator policy was necessary, an anonymous senior stated that “Putting a lock on elevators makes it less accessible to those who need it. People didn’t really use the elevators in the first place unless injured or after school hours, so now if someone gets injured in the third-floor gym, they would have to go through extra trouble just to get down.” This opinion was reaffirmed by sophomore Cade Missner, who stated that “It’s an elevator. It should be open access to people—sometimes you just can’t deal with the stairs. I do however acknowledge that it should be prioritized for those who physically cannot use the stairs, which obviously triumphs over laziness.The prior restriction to public access does not significantly frustrate me, though. What I hate is how a disabled student now has to go out of their way to ask a teacher to unlock the elevator, taking valuable time from both people’s days. Some teachers don’t even have the key.”  This sentiment was not shared by the entirety of the student body as freshman Marlen Martinez explained that “If no policy was issued at our school, the attendees would all create a chaotic mess trying to get on it and the people who need it, will never have a chance.”

Data collected from anonymous Paw Print survey.

When asked about the safety and security policy, a vast majority of the student body stated that they felt safer knowing that the school building was safe from intruders with potentially dangerous intentions. In fact 81.6% of respondents felt that this policy is a necessary safety measure against school shooters, with sophomore Aiman stating “see any news article about gun violence.” While many students supported this policy, some students were also against it with a freshman stating that “if people are late coming back {from lunch}, it’s their own fault but let them in so that they can go to class, even if they are a little late.”

Data collected from anonymous Paw Print survey.

While the prior results were generally mixed, Payton’s hall pass policy is where there was the most uniformity among the responses with 81.1% saying that they deemed the implementation of hall passes “harmful”, “patronizing”, and “comical”. An anonymous senior supported this statistic by stating that “the Hall Passes are not necessary at all. Since only one person can be out at once in each class, there is often a holdup and a long wait to use the pass. As a girl too, I’ve had multiple occurrences where I had to use the bathroom for period purposes, and wasn’t able to access it. Last year, I would go on atrium walks, not to avoid class, but to relieve stress and take a quick break. These breaks are what kept me going through the class as stress-free as possible, but now that’s simply not possible because that would cause a hold-up for people who actually have to use the bathroom.” While the majority of the student body was against the use of hall passes, 18.9% supported this newly implemented policy. When asked about their opinion, junior Olivia Nash passionately stated that “It’s the school’s job to keep us in class. If we disobey this and skip, what should we expect other than measures to keep people learning? Students say the school only cares about the attendance rate rather than students, but they care about attendance because this is a school. They are obviously going to do what they can to keep us in class because it is literally their job.”

Data collected from anonymous Paw Print survey.

In all, the student body believes that a majority of the school regulations are necessary for our safety while some policies, such as the use of hall passes, feel demeaning to a high school student and illustrates a lack of trust between the administration and the student body.

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