Hundreds of schools across the United States are using an app to track their students’ trips to the bathroom. The software, called e-Hallpass, collects data on each kid, allowing teachers and administrators to look for any particular patterns, such as a student frequently taking “too long” to return to class.
At this rate, there could come a time when your kid’s bathroom visits are fully monitored.
Sound disturbing? You’re not alone.
“I just think it’s a violation of our privacy, and I don’t think it’s something that needs to be in place,” 17-year-old Christian Chase told The Washington Post.
Chase is a student at Heritage High School in Loudoun County, Virginia, where e-Hallpass has been used since September. When Chase wants to use the school restroom, he has to request permission via his computer, then wait for his teacher to approve his request.
If Chase gets his teacher’s approval, he then has a pre-determined amount of time to use the bathroom and return to his seat. If he takes too long, e-Hallpass will alert a school official to go looking for him.
Why is this app necessary?
The company that made e-Hallpass, Eduspire Solutions, says it’s meant to “keep track of students in an emergency, decrease vaping, identify vandals and crack down on truancy.”
Eduspire adds that e-Hallpass can be used to cut down on school violence because it allows the teacher to flag certain students who shouldn’t be in the hallway at the same time (for example, a bully and a kid he regularly targets).
But e-Hallpass doesn’t take into consideration the many different reasons a child may be using the restroom. Just because a student is away from class for 20 minutes doesn’t mean they’re doing drugs or vandalizing the bathroom stall.
In his blog, privacy attorney Brad Shear points out a number of benign reasons a student might take longer than average to use the restroom. Maybe that child is ill, having their period, or even experiencing anxiety about a test.
“What if a student has acne and goes to the bathroom more than ‘average’ to put on cover-up because they are embarrassed at having pimples?” Shear asks. “What if a student is having sexual identity issues and is taking longer to go to the bathroom because they want more privacy?”
Shear wonders if students will be afraid to take too much time in the bathroom, for fear e-Hallpass will raise a red flag, send someone to look for them, and “harm their bathroom score.”
“I will not allow this app to be utilized in my kids’ schools, period,” Shear told The Washington Post. “If the app ends up getting rolled out I will make sure that I get the PTA involved. This is bathroom big brother.”
Meanwhile, Chase has started a petition to remove e-Hallpass from his school. So far, he has more than 400 signatures.