Newport News college pilots new program to curb fighting


NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — A college in Newport News is piloting a new program to control the number of fights among students.

From March to present, school staff say there have been at least eight fights at Gildersleeve Middle School.

One who 10 on your side which you first reported on last month was about the mother of a student who allegedly molested another student in the cafeteria before escaping the building.

A Newport News public schools spokesperson told 10 On Your Side Gildersleeve Middle School is the only school in the district piloting the e-Hall pass and doing so on a 60-day trial period. The program, which Gildersleeve launched on April 11, uses technology to track students when they are not in class.

Teachers who wish to remain anonymous told us that whenever a student needs to use the restroom or leave the classroom, they ask a teacher to generate an e-pass through the e-Hall pass website. Students use a link on their Chromebook to request a pass, which then pings a teacher’s computer to accept or decline. If a student does not return on time, teachers should follow protocol by alerting school administration or security.

“It will reduce the number of children waiting outside bathrooms and in the hallway, which tends to cause problems. In other words, if they are waiting, they will at least be waiting in the classroom rather than in the hallway,” the teacher explained.

The program also allows school administrators to see how many people are in the hallway, how long they’ve been away from class, and limit the number of passes accepted for certain locations.

Teachers we spoke to told us they didn’t think the program was enough to help stop fighting at school, but it’s a start.

“I think it’s still too early to call. I’m cautiously optimistic, but I don’t think it will eliminate fighting,” the teacher said.

Parents like Gildersleeve’s father, Troy Sorensen, agree. He told us he had repeatedly contacted the principal of Gildersleeve and the district superintendent about his concerns about violence at the school – a fight that happened just yards from his 8th grade daughter .

“There must be room monitors. You need a physical presence. Not a little device that’s going to say hey, it’s time to get back to class,” Sorensen said.

Once the 60-day trial period is over, Gildersleeve may choose to keep or discontinue the program. If they like it, it could be rolled out to the whole district. Schools do not need parental approval to use the program with students.

“The main downside is that the teacher is actively on my feet and teaching, runs in the background and beeps when a pass passes, so I know I have to go back to a computer, accept or decline a pass and when a child comes back into the room, I have to do the same,” said a teacher.


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