POLL: B-W Student Reps Revisit 'Disgusting' Hall Passes Issue
Sophomore Victoria Schmotzer uses research to prove her point.
Are hall passes at Baldwin High School sanitary?
That was a concern voiced to Baldwin-Whitehall School District administration by Edward Lippl, the district's senior class representative to the B-W School Board, at the first board meeting of the 2011-12 school year. And with time winding down in his high school career, Lippl says that he's never gotten a sufficient response.
So at Wednesday night's board meeting, Lippl brought backup, teaming with sophomore class rep Victoria Schmotzer to make a compelling case that hall passes at Baldwin High are, as Schmotzer puts it, "disgusting."
Before speaking on the issue on Wednesday, Schmotzer and Lippl distributed handouts to board members and other attendants of the meeting that detail research done by Schmotzer.
Schmotzer's research, she said, shows that hall passes at Baldwin, which students use for occasions like bathroom breaks, are covered in harmful bacteria.
Schmotzer said that her research—see media gallery above—found evidence of staphylococcus, corynebacterium, bacillus, serratia and streptococcus on hall passes in regular circulation that she took from two rooms in the 300 level of the high school. Staphylococcus, corynebacterium and streptococcus are defined as being possibly "pathogenic," or "capable of producing disease," by Dictionary.com.
Schmotzer said that she even found evidence of harmful bacteria on passes that she inspected 24 hours after disinfecting them and putting them back into circulation.
"It doesn't matter if it has a lanyard or it's treated," Schmotzer said. "They still have harmful bacteria, and you're making your kid touch those every single day.
"They should have been gone at the beginning of the year. We should have disposable hall passes."
In an interview after the meeting, Schmotzer said, "I actually thought there weren't going to be as much bacteria. I was really surprised with all of the harmful bacteria.
"Disposable, one-time hall passes would be great as an alternative to these, which are absolutely disgusting."
But Dr. Lawrence C. Korchnak, the district's superintendent, isn't convinced.
"I would ask that you test the desktops, as well," Korchnak said to Schmotzer on Wednesday, "because I think that no building is germ-free. This (handout) shows that there are some germs ... but I honestly don't know, from this data, that this is a greater risk of harm than just the common desk."
Schmotzer said that she would ultimately like for the high school to allow personal paper agendas that each student carries around to act as his or her hall pass—as was done years ago—but she acknowledged that district administration prefers using passes that are more clearly labeled so as to better track where students are at in the building.
Korchnak said in September that paper agendas do not offer immediate, visual confirmation for security guards, teachers and/or administrators as to whether or not a student is in the appropriate zone of a school building.
"(The current passes) prevent kids from going one-quarter of a mile to one end (of the building) and saying, 'Hey, I have a hall pass,'" Korchnak said in September. "(Students) end up on the other end of the building, and usually, that's for no good reason."
Korchnak said to Schmotzer on Wednesday, "I still think that hall passes are good, and I'm not convinced with this (research) yet. Although I really appreciate your work, I think it needs more to convince me."
In September, Lippl shared a rumor that some students were purposefully urinating on hall passes.
On Wednesday, he added, "If you want to go to a bathroom, you take a hall pass, and you carry it with you to the toilet. No one does that with doorknobs, desks, other things like that. Those, for the most part, stay stationary, away from, arguably, the most disgusting room in the school.
"I have a very close friend who had the cafeteria hall pass, and he went to the bathroom with it. And he dropped it into the toilet. He just washed it off and gave it back. That is the cafeteria hall pass, which kids are touching as they eat their food.
"I think that these things are a health risk."
Lippl, like Schmotzer, said that he would be happy with disposable hall passes, and building Principal Kevin O'Toole said that he has prepared a plan for implementing disposable passes should district administration decide to go that route.
Of course, disposable passes would result in an increase in the costs associated with creating them every day.
School board member Nancy Sciulli DiNardo said that she would prefer a return to using personal agendas as hall passes, but O'Toole said that he agreed with Korchnak in that using agendas causes security and wandering problems at the high school.
"I think it's absolutely disgusting that these kids are sharing one hall pass," Sciulli DiNardo said. "It's just not sanitary.
"I don't even touch doorknobs when I walk into buildings."
What should students use as a hall pass at Baldwin High School? Tell us in the comments section below. And feel free to vote in our poll above.
Check back with the Baldwin-Whitehall Patch later on Thursday for more odds and ends from Wednesday night's school board meeting.
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