The New Pass System That is Making Waves


Kendal Detwiler, Editor

At the beginning of this school year, Quakertown High School introduced an app called “SmartPass” to replace the paper pass system that we have implemented for as long as we can remember. The app was created by a group of high school juniors (now college juniors) and an assistant principal at Methacton High School, located in Eaglesville, Pennsylvania. The creators have considered the app an “honor system.” The creators mention how this is not about tracking where the students are going, Over 200 public schools in America have brought in this app. One of the main goals of this new feature was to reduce violence and vandalism within areas of the school, then also have a safer outcome. Earlier this month, we sent a survey to the students of QCHS to gather their opinions on a new feature to our school.

We walked in on the first day of school and got introduced to this system. Initial thoughts that some of the students had were “it’s absurd and doesn’t seem like a good system to regulate. it seems extreme” and “It was going to take a while to set up, while just asking and going was faster.” Not a positive response at all, with only five out of 160 responses having a positive response for their beginning of the year opinions. In the responses, students used the words “stupid” and “controlling.” Now that we are a few months into the school year, maybe their opinions have changed. Ten kids had a positive feeling about SmartPass at this point in the year, with 5 people having a different opinion after the first couple months. The gist of what people were saying was said in this response, saying “No, it is still a time consuming and confusing process. The teachers have no idea how to use it, notifications do not pop up, so if a pass is unseen, you cannot leave and may miss an appointment with a teacher just because they couldnt confirm the meeting. If a bathroom is full you arent allowed to use the bathroom? How was staff able to take a human right away from students as simply as smartpass. The whole system is filled with flaws that cannot be mended.”

On each school day, a student receives 5 SmartPasses, and once you’re out, you’re out. From the survey, it was determined that 30% of students use 2 passes, 29.4% use 1 pass, 16.9% use 3 passes, 4.4% use all of their passes and will need more, 3.1% use 4 passes, and 1.9% use 5 passes. The passes can be used for a variety of reasons, like going to the bathroom or another classroom, or just to get out of class with no specific reason. You have the 2 groups of people who will use it for the correct reasons, but then the people who are using it for the incorrect reasons. From this data, 46.9% of students have neglected to set up a pass. That can be determined by not caring and/or simply forgetting, but either way, it is not the right thing to do as it is against the policy that the school has created; however, 53.1% did typically set up a SmartPass. 

The neglect, however, can go hand in hand with the responsibilities that teachers have with the system. They can see what passes their students are setting up, plus the timer that is set with each pass. Occasionally, teachers will tell students to not set up a pass and just go with 55.6% saying that they have had a teacher do that and 44.4% having them always create a pass. If an administrator writes up a student for not using the pass, but it was the teacher who did not care, would administration have the teacher’s back? Or would all the blame be put on the student. Teachers also have the ability to track where a student is going with students responding with “It felt like an invasion of privacy.” 93.1% of responders have not had a teacher track them, with the remaining 6.9% have had a teacher track their pass. The survey allowed students to share their experiences about the tracking. A student said “My teacher was showing us how many people were out. And how much time we were out.” Another said that a teacher would not let them out to where they needed to go, and that is technically against the law. Many teachers believe that this will be a much easier system, however the task of enforcing it will involve more time dedicated to it then they imagined before.

If a location is full, a student is not allowed to even select that location. They can wait or put in another location that is farther away from where they are. 40.6% of students wait until the location is open, 30% put in a different location then go to the one that is full, and finally, 29.4% put in a different location then go to that new location. With people discreetly doing that, can administrators and/or other staff members stop it, but do they want to stop it at every moment? Are they going to walk into every bathroom and count the number of people and then tell the other people to get out? Do we have enough staff to do so? Lots of unanswered questions. 

The aides in the hallway, as well, can ask people where they are going and ask to see the pass on their phone. 16.9% of responders have had an aide stop them in the hall, with most of these instances happening during the lunch and PRIDE period. A student noted “I was in the bathroom and [a staff member] took 10 minutes to check my pass because I used my chrome book.” In that instance, we can’t really blame a student for this, however was this staff member trained well on this part? Students are getting affected by this, and if we want what is best for the students, we have to be prepped and ready.

Furthermore, there is a feature that allows a student to request a pass to another classroom. You request it from the room that you are coming from and the room that you are going to. In some instances, a student will never have their pass approved, but they still have to retake that test. Can it be possible to just go to the room and not be requested, due to the time restraint within it? Is there any possibility that this system could be improved so students can get to other teachers’ rooms during PRIDE?

The initial  intended purposes were stopping vandalism and increasing safety due to our rough past with those issues.Although there seem to be a ton of negatives, there are positive outcomes out of it, believe it or not. It cuts down on paper, which benefits the environment. Even though it may seem like a negative, being able to see where your students are without being in a scramble is an advantage, on the teachers’ end, Students discreetly knew about it, but they had their thoughts and opinions about it. The issues have gone down from the previous school year, for example within the first month of the 2021-2022 school year, we had ten physical fights, but this year there have been no fights, a jurassic shift from last year. For some students, safety was not a top thought when given SmartPass. We asked the students about whether there is a safer outcome due to SmartPass. One student said “No, I don’t think it is because people just do what they want anyways.” There are always those rebellious kids who just do not care about what the higher-ups say. Even if they are told that they shouldn’t do that, they just won’t stop. In this instance, when kids are out with their pass, are they doing the right thing and not causing a ruckus? This goes hand-in-hand with a student who said “Not really, people can not start the pass and pretend they did when they didn’t and still go cause problems.” This connects to what the original intent was by the creators: the honor system method. If they mess up, they have to be honest and say “Hey, I messed up.” However, there will be kids who will not honor the honor system and go reckless. How could this system be tweaked to have a better student outcome with trust and honesty. It will obviously never be 100% better, but what steps can be taken to improve it?

The majority of the student population strongly dislike SmartPass. However, it wouldn’t erase the fact that the administration does like it and appreciates the benefit. There are multiple instances where this system is flawed and that is an app problem, but something that the administration can oversee. They have the ability to make these changes to make SmartPass better for QCHS, however, the steps need to be taken to do so.