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mgnme
06-18-2011, 02:02 AM
I'm looking for someone who can give me a rundown of how some basic public-school rules work. I went to private school, so I'm completely baffled by things like the need for a hall pass, or this business about "getting detention." seriously. lol. we had neither of those things. but my MC goes to a public school and it's important to the plot that I have a handle on some rules. I'm particularly interested in understanding:

-hall passes. i get what they are, but, like, how long are they good for? just for the amount of time it takes you to get to the bathroom/water fountain and back? or if the students need to go around the school taking pictures for a project, could their art teacher give them a pass that would be good for the whole art period?
-hall monitors. see above. also, *who* are they? security-guard type people? teachers with free periods? do they walk around, or stand at certain posts around the school? how many are there out at any particular time?
-detention/in-school suspension. never attended a school with it in my life. i can find the basics on the internet, but any delinquents with personal experience, feel free to fill me in on the details I may have missed. :)
-any public school rules/bureaucratic nonsense I might not have come across in an internet search.

it's a (US) suburban school in a fairly good area, if that makes a difference.

thanks! :)

Cyia
06-18-2011, 02:21 AM
A hall pass is only good for the one use and from the time//distance form the room to wherever the student is going. It can either be a slip of paper or an actual object (some teachers use flyswatters or ping pong paddles. I had one who used a toilet seat) that signals to others in authority that you're out of class with permission.

If on assignment, then the pass will either state such, or it can be a lanyard hung around the student's neck like an old school "press pass"

We didn't have hall monitors because we had security guards, but they're usually kids with "office aide" for a class period who patrol the halls and either goof off (the liked ones) or think they're generals (the hated ones) You wouldn't have more than one monitor/hall.

detention is either served during lunch (like study hall) or after school, which can be dicey if you have to ride the bus. ISS (in school suspension) is a small room with small cubicles (partitions around standard desks) where kids are sent to do work. They aren't allowed to speak at or look at anyone else for the duration. By Senior year, good students will get ISS just to have a place to do their work.

Public schools are built bureaucratic nonsense. And fundraisers. If the stopped selling cookie dough and wrapping paper, most public schools would cease to exist ;)

You might Google 5 random school districts and pull up their home pages. The school rules and code of conduct should be listed on the site.

Kitti
06-18-2011, 06:06 AM
We didn't have hall monitors because we had security guards, but they're usually kids with "office aide" for a class period who patrol the halls and either goof off (the liked ones) or think they're generals (the hated ones) You wouldn't have more than one monitor/hall.

Ours were teachers with free periods - the amount of monitoring that got done depended on the teacher. Also our school was arranged into "sub-schools," one for each grade level, and each had their own set of admin staff - a principal, a secretary, and a few councilors. Those admin staff had offices with windows onto the main congregation area with lockers/bathrooms/etc so they could unofficially monitor. Other admin staff were assigned to monitor the outside of the building (esp. the parking lot) to catch students sneaking out, smoking, doing drugs, etc.

You didn't really need a hall pass if you were in with the admin staff & teachers. Also, as long as you looked like you knew where you were going (and weren't just loafing around), you could get away with a lot. My entire AP English class once skipped school (our 1st year teacher thought that we could be trusted... yes, naive) - all but two of us actually left the premises, my friend & I crossed the entire building unquestioned on our way to the friend's mom's classroom.

We also had our own school police officer (err... "safety officer"?) who patrolled the school and did "safety meetings" at the beginning of the school year. I have vivid memories of one middle school lecture on not breaking the law in any way shape or form: "Say you really have to take a leak, but there's no bathroom, so you stop on the side of the road and who should come along but?" "Officer Tate!"


it's a (US) suburban school in a fairly good area

What income level are we talking about? It was my experience that the poorer suburban schools were the ones that had trouble with gang violence, smoking, drinking. The richer suburban schools were the ones that had trouble with drugs (those students being the ones who could afford them.)

RHuszar
06-18-2011, 07:41 AM
Our hall passes were little colored check lists with a bunch of location options and a place for the teacher's signature. The school changed the color of them every year so... you couldn't hoard them... or something... I really had no idea why they did it.

We didn't have hall monitors. If you happened to run in to a teacher while out, they were supposed to ask for your pass, but if you were walking purposefully enough, you never got stopped. It was really just one more thing to scare the freshmen. If you were leaving the building during school hours, you needed a pass and to sign out at the front office.

I got detention once. In eighth grade. For not getting a math test I failed signed by one of my parents for three days. If that isn't bureaucratic nonsense, I don't know what is. Regardless, I was terrified, but it was basically "sit in this room for half an hour and don't talk." I read. Pretty tame.

What other nonsense are you looking for? More disciplinary action? List of possible offenses? Drug, alcohol, and absence policies? School dances? Hallway catfights?

(Gosh, this is really making high school seem terrifying, isn't it? :) )

cameron_chapman
06-18-2011, 07:47 AM
I went to a large public high school in VA, about an hour from DC. We had a huge mix of income levels, with some very rich kids and some very poor kids. Most were probably somewhere in what would be considered middle class, though.


-hall passes. i get what they are, but, like, how long are they good for? just for the amount of time it takes you to get to the bathroom/water fountain and back? or if the students need to go around the school taking pictures for a project, could their art teacher give them a pass that would be good for the whole art period?
I had a band teacher who once gave me and another girl a hall pass to "go find Corey" (another student), which basically meant we could go anywhere in the school for the entire period. He used to let us write our own hall passes, too, and then would just sign them. (Did I mention he was one of my absolute favorite teachers?) In all honesty, though, unless you were goofing around in the hallway, it was unlikely any teacher would even ask you for a hall pass.


-hall monitors. see above. also, *who* are they? security-guard type people? teachers with free periods? do they walk around, or stand at certain posts around the school? how many are there out at any particular time?
We didn't have hall monitors, really. We did have a security guard (rent-a-cop), but he wasn't always out and about in the halls. But most of the time there would be at least some teachers or administrators in the hall, going from one classroom to another or to the office.


-detention/in-school suspension. never attended a school with it in my life. i can find the basics on the internet, but any delinquents with personal experience, feel free to fill me in on the details I may have missed. :)
We didn't have detention, but we did have in-school suspension. I had it a few times. It was basically just a classroom, and you were there for the whole day. If you got lunch from the cafeteria (rather than bringing your own), they'd let you out to go get your lunch, but then you had to come back to the classroom to eat. There was no talking, though depending on what kind of mood the supervising teacher was in, and who was in the classroom, that was sometimes less strictly enforced.


-any public school rules/bureaucratic nonsense I might not have come across in an internet search.
My senior year, they started not allowing students in the hallways until five or ten minutes before class started in the morning (ten or fifteen minutes for seniors, I can't remember for sure). Instead, if you showed up at the school early, you either had to go to the cafeteria or the gym (depending on which door you went in). The idea was to cut down on fights in the hallways before school, and for the most part it worked. But it also cause it's own sets of problems.

Becca_H
06-18-2011, 03:08 PM
Ditto what others have said. High school in the US varies significantly, even within school districts. You can have schools that are really strict on tardies, to those who don't care. Same with dress codes, sanctions, parking, etc.

You can set your rules for your fictional school, and you'll be fine. There isn't one set of universal rules, which if you breach, your readers will think is unrealistic. You can have a school that issues detention and ISS every two seconds, or a school that doesn't sanction kids at all, and it should be fine. Whatever works best for your story.

I'm British, so I can't really answer your questions from any experience, but I will have a shot at your hall monitor question as others didn't have them. These are very common in the UK (called Prefects. I was one.).

Basically, I had the authority to sanction kids, issue detentions etc, anywhere on the school site. (It's a lot of power for someone so young.) I also had to spend one lunch a week patrolling one section of the school (and other prefects would cover other areas, but our jurisdiction was school-wide). I also helped new kids find their classes, intervened in acts of bullying, and helped out teachers after school with things.

The type of stuff we had to deal with was normally minor, like being in the halls during lunch, running inside etc. I also had to break up a few fights, get some kids down from a very tall tree, stop kids being bullied. Stuff teachers should really do, but get older kids to do for free so they can have their lunch.

This may not be relatable to a US high school, but as I said, you can create your own rules to suit your story.

No hall pass system in the UK, but if I was out of a lesson unsupervised, I was stopped and asked why. Every time.

Becca_H
06-18-2011, 03:24 PM
Also, check a few high school websites at random. Many have their handbooks online in PDF. Here's three that were indexed by Google:

http://www.elko.k12.nv.us/schigh/Forms/10-11%20Student%20Handbook.pdf
(http://www.elko.k12.nv.us/schigh/Forms/10-11%20Student%20Handbook.pdf)
http://www.fccps.k12.va.us/gm/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&layout=blog&id=40&Itemid=183

http://www.middletownk12.org/north/StudentResources/High_School_Student_Handbook_CURRENT.pdf

This should help you with general policies and sanctions.

Also some school websites, like this one:

http://www.lahigh.org/

Have information on their website like bell schedules, homework guidance etc.

jaksen
06-18-2011, 04:49 PM
The type of stuff we had to deal with was normally minor, like being in the halls during lunch, running inside etc. I also had to break up a few fights, get some kids down from a very tall tree, stop kids being bullied. Stuff teachers should really do, but get older kids to do for free so they can have their lunch.





I love your last sentence here. So teachers shouldn't have time to eat? I had a twenty-minute lunch period. Now take off three minutes at the beginning and the end for corridor duty. (And I taught at an upper middle class public school in fairly-liberal MA, USA.)

I find it interesting reading this thread, as most of you (I think) are recounting your school experiences, which I could do, too. But being a former teacher (now retired) here is my take on it.

When I started teaching, we used hall passes which were essentially a block of wood with our room number carved in it. Some teachers painted or decorated the block. It was a handy way to show who was allowed out of the room, but it didn't indicate where that student's destination was, or how long he/she should be out of the room. I recall friends of mine who weren't teachers laughing at the idea that 'we needed hall passes, just let the kids out when they need to use the bathroom, etc. etc.'

We needed hall passes because sometimes a child would pull a fire alarm when alone in a hall, or set a fire in the bathroom, or plug up the toilets. (We had one or two of these incidents a year; not bad for a school with around 600 students.) We switched to written passes so we had a record of who was out of the class and at what time. (Teachers collected the passes and stuffed them in a desk drawer in case administrators needed to go through them later. Ummm...who was out of class at 10:12 when the alarm was pulled?)

Passes are a passive sort of security check and a means to watch the activities of 600 children when out of the sight of adults.

We never had teachers or aides, etc., in the halls until right before I retired. It was part of an assigned duty to grab a desk, pull it into the hall and sit there and read or correct papers, asking to check passes (and school-issued IDs from adults who had permission to visit or were working in the building.)

As for detention, usually a good teacher gives about 1,000 warnings - no, you may not sit and make fake farting noises all period - until issuing a detention. It can be for teacher detention (some infraction done in class) or office detention (given by the school administrators.)

After a few years of teaching I gave up on detention. My take was, this kid is driving me nuts in class, why would I want to spend 30-45 minutes with him or her after school? I used peer pressure to keep kids in line; it worked 99.9% of the time. My take was this: oh, too bad Joey can't shut up, it means I just won't have time for that experiment, demo, movie, video, passing out candy, etc. etc.

(The .1% who didn't respond to this approach were sociopath-type kids who didn't care what other kids thought about them. They were very rare. I had to toss maybe 8 kids out of my class permanently in over 30 years of teaching. I think most of those kids are in jail now or are dead.)

Maybe I was lucky where I taught. I saw very little bureaucratic nonsense. Rules existed for specific purposes and when they didn't work, they were shelved or adjusted. Our aim was to keep the kids safe, first and foremost, and everything moved from there.

I can't think of anything unusual we did, though, like a rule which would be unique to the school. One thing which was a common 'custom' at all the schools in the town I taught was to call every absent student's home in the morning. After attendance was taken and reported to the main office, a secretary, office aide or school volunteer would call to make sure the absent child was legitimately home sick or on an appointment, or the parents knew they were home. As a result we had a very low truancy rate and we never had the horrible situation of a parent thinking their child was safe at school, when they weren't. When I would mention his practice to friends who taught in other towns they were omg, who can afford the time and personnel to do that?

We did it. We accounted for all our students every day. I know that now there are automated programs which do the same thing. We also didn't allow our students to go home with anyone who wasn't on a designated release form, especially non-custodial parents. I walked in on many an argument in the main office with a parent yelling that he wanted his kid, regardless of who was on the 'form.' Police would be called to intervene in those situations.

In most cases, school or otherwise, if a rule or law exists, it has to have a background, history or reason for that rule. Yes, sometimes rules are stupid and arbitrary, but I saw very little of this when I taught. In fact, if a rule was stupid, we teachers would speak out either alone, in a group or through our union to question it. At one time we had one-way corridors. Our school was pushed to overcrowding and you could only go up one staircase, down another, and halls were one way. After a year of this, we protested and said this is crazy. Crowded is crowded no matter which way you're walking, so this rule was ended.

Becca_H
06-18-2011, 05:11 PM
I love your last sentence here. So teachers shouldn't have time to eat? I had a twenty-minute lunch period. Now take off three minutes at the beginning and the end for corridor duty. (And I taught at an upper middle class public school in fairly-liberal MA, USA.)

No, but on the days I was technically 'on duty', I wasn't permitted lunch at all. If I wasn't in my allocated part of the school within two minutes, I'd get sanctioned myself.

I don't know what happens in schools with varying lunch periods (which we didn't have in my school) but during the 30-minute lunch at our school, the only 'responsible' (hindsight leads me to use this term loosely) people around were twenty or so prefects. We had a lot of responsibility. 20 kids to monitor 2,000 kids. If we needed a teacher for something serious, we'd be lucky if we could find one quickly.

Granted, I did volunteer for the position (and I'm training to be a teacher now and understand the issue with hours, especially lunch), so I'm not complaining.

Your reasons for hall passes are exactly why European schools should adopt them. We had our fair share of fire alarms (and real fires) that ended up unsolved mysteries, which only lead to more fires.

mgnme
06-18-2011, 06:28 PM
one more thing i forgot about - bells! what do they sound like? in my imagination, they sound kind of like a fire alarm only not quite so loud...is this totally off? lol. (i need to describe what they sound like, b/c i have a character who hates loud noises) and do they ring directly inside the classrooms, the way a PA system does, or do they just ring in the halls, and you hear it through the wall?

this is soooo helpful, everyone! thanks :) :)

Becca_H
06-18-2011, 06:55 PM
one more thing i forgot about - bells! what do they sound like? in my imagination, they sound kind of like a fire alarm only not quite so loud...is this totally off? lol. (i need to describe what they sound like, b/c i have a character who hates loud noises) and do they ring directly inside the classrooms, the way a PA system does, or do they just ring in the halls, and you hear it through the wall?

this is soooo helpful, everyone! thanks :) :)

The bells normally are the fire alarm. It's the same equipment. In my school, they were normally in the corridors, but some were in classrooms. And, yeah, if you were in close proximity, they were loud.

I made a point of finding out the exact second they sounded, so I could prepare for it. I hated the noise, too.

Some schools will have one bell to signal something, like a lesson change. Others will have one bell to signal the end of one period, then another to signal the start of another. This will depend on whether teachers decide who is or isn't late, or if there's a set time frame for moving around.

My school trialed a 'No Bell' system for one year. They never sounded at all. Generally, kids turned up to places on time. But a small proportion were late and blamed it on no bells, so they brought them back.

RHuszar
06-18-2011, 10:00 PM
My school had a digitalized bell system (to match the digital clocks, I suppose) and it sounded... like an alarm clock that only rings once. A long beep. Not a traditional bell sound at all. They rang at the start of class, at the end of class, and once during passing time to let student know they had five minutes left to get where they were going. You could hear it in the classrooms, in the hallway, and in the parking lot, but not in the gym, surprisingly... If you happened to be under one when it rang it was VERY loud. And I'm super jumpy, so it sucked. :)

Guardian
06-18-2011, 10:16 PM
-hall passes. i get what they are, but, like, how long are they good for? just for the amount of time it takes you to get to the bathroom/water fountain and back? or if the students need to go around the school taking pictures for a project, could their art teacher give them a pass that would be good for the whole art period?
Usually they are just for something like going to the bathroom and back. Yes, an art teacher might let a student go take pictures. They may have to write a pass with that explanation on it "Kayla may go take pictures." I've never had a teacher check my pass, and if I'm caught without one I usually just tell them what's up and I've never gotten in trouble "I was in the bathroom before the bell rang / my name was called on the intercom"

-hall monitors. see above. also, *who* are they? security-guard type people? teachers with free periods? do they walk around, or stand at certain posts around the school? how many are there out at any particular time?
They were teachers with free periods at my school. They stood in the main hallway with paper and clipboard, either to keep themselves busy or maybe to write people up if they didn't have a pass. There were usually about three, give or take.

-detention/in-school suspension. never attended a school with it in my life. i can find the basics on the internet, but any delinquents with personal experience, feel free to fill me in on the details I may have missed. :)
I never went to a detention or in-house suspension in high school. Teachers might give a student detention if they are repeatedly tardy for class, which means they make you stay after class or after school for an extended period of time, and ask why you were late so often. In-house people aren't allowed to talk or do much of anything except homework or reading. But I've heard lots of stories about people who repeatedly get in-house and the teacher in charge of inhouse lets them go because they become friends or something. I never understood that.
-any public school rules/bureaucratic nonsense I might not have come across in an internet search.
No hats in school. No cell phones (but kids will always try to text in their laps, or go to the bathroom to text). Our school finally let kids text during lunch period. Gum was banned for a while, but they finally gave up on that rule, so gum was big. "Anyone have some gum? Thanks." iPods are often not allowed, depending on the teacher. A teacher might let the kids listen to them during work time, but not too loudly. They are not allowed during texts, because someone might take the time to make a podcast of answers or something.

Any more questions, feel free to ask me. I *just* graduated high school. Mine was pretty small, 900 kids, and my experience isn't universal, but it's a valid experience. :)

Cyia
06-18-2011, 10:21 PM
iPods are often not allowed, depending on the teacher. A teacher might let the kids listen to them during work time, but not too loudly. They are not allowed during texts, because someone might take the time to make a podcast of answers or something.

When I was in school the AP classes used the advanced "scientific" / "graphic" calculators for higher level math. Our teachers always made us clear the memories on them, and prove we'd done it, prior to tests because you could program them with either pages of text or the formulas to do the work automatically. :D

Guardian
06-18-2011, 10:24 PM
one more thing i forgot about - bells! what do they sound like? in my imagination, they sound kind of like a fire alarm only not quite so loud...is this totally off? lol. (i need to describe what they sound like, b/c i have a character who hates loud noises) and do they ring directly inside the classrooms, the way a PA system does, or do they just ring in the halls, and you hear it through the wall?

this is soooo helpful, everyone! thanks :) :)


Schools can have lots of different bells. I remember being at a different school when their bell went off- we thought it was bizarre because it was very musical and chime-like. Another one reminded us of the puppet guy from Saw and when the bell went off, we thought he might come out on his tricycle.

Our school didn't have the "traditional" fire alarm kind of ringing. Instead it was broadcast through the PA system as a series of quick beeps. I can't even find it on youtube, but if you look on there you'll see what I mean about bells varying.

Ah, and btw our fire alarm is pretty much exactly like this, flashing light included. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eLpoiPXQe1Q&feature=related It's super loud so even if you were deaf, I'm pretty sure you could still feel the vibrations in your head.

Becca_H
06-18-2011, 10:28 PM
Ahhh yes, the stupid rules. They're all coming back to me reading this.

In our school there were certain doors you couldn't use. Like the cafeteria: you could go in through one door and out through the other. Dare you enter through the "wrong" door and a teacher would shout at you.

As a prefect this was one rule I felt stupid for enforcing. If someone came through a door they weren't supposed to come through, we'd have to send them back and tell them to walk the other way (even if this meant them getting rained on and spending five minutes walking around the outside of the school). You'd see them five minutes later as they finally arrived through the "correct" door. Hell, I even had to give detentions for this crap.

They didn't have this for ease of flow or movement. They had this rule because they could.

I'm surprised you had chewing gum permitted, Guardian. It was the spawn of the devil at our school. They'd actually get special cleaning companies in to clean it off the floor, and then we'd get lectured about how the cost of cleaning the gum off the floor was the equivalent of a heated swimming pool. As if they would ACTUALLY have bought us a heated swimming pool if nobody chewed gum.

Oh, and nobody could be inside during break. At lunch you could, but not break. REGARDLESS OF WEATHER. Kids were forced outside even if everywhere was frozen and people slipped over.

RHuszar
06-18-2011, 10:30 PM
Ah, and btw our fire alarm is pretty much exactly like this, flashing light included. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eLpoiPXQe1Q&feature=related It's super loud so even if you were deaf, I'm pretty sure you could still feel the vibrations in your head.

Oh gosh, we had the same ones. (Standard issue fire alarm?) That sound makes me feel like my brain is going to explode.

Guardian
06-18-2011, 10:33 PM
I'm surprised you had chewing gum permitted, Guardian. It was the spawn of the devil at our school. They'd actually get special cleaning companies in to clean it off the floor, and then we'd get lectured about how the cost of cleaning the gum off the floor was the equivalent of a heated swimming pool. As if they would ACTUALLY have bought us a heated swimming pool if nobody chewed gum.

Yep. They tried to enforce it for a long time, but finally gave up. The no-hats rule is almost going the same way, and like I said, they finally gave in to letting us use cell phones during lunch. They'll sometimes go lax and then attempt to "crack down" on it again, but teachers don't really want to give us suspensions over stuff like hats (they told me this, because you can only remind someone so many times before you have to suspend them or something).

Of course, gum was not allowed in the band and chorus room areas. Neither was food for the band area, because of the instruments. And peanuts had a crack down one day, because we apparently had a few kids in the junior high who were very allergic to peanuts. (Our high school was connected to the junior high, and the music area was sort of the shared in-between point, and the JH had the computer labs.)

Becca_H
06-18-2011, 11:33 PM
Out of curiosity, do you know why a teacher would jump straight to a suspension for a dress code violation? Wouldn't there be multiple detentions or ISS, and using suspension as a last resort?

Suspension was a very last resort in our school, mainly for violence or worse.

Hbooks
06-19-2011, 12:13 AM
Hall passes are handled differently by school. As a general trend, the larger the school, the more need for order and rules. A small school of 400 likely handles things quite differently than a mega high schools with 3,000. The setting also matters. If a school is in a fairly affluent or rural area with few serious behavior problems, it may be more lax than a school in a rough neighborhood. Hall passes are often pre-printed slips of paper filled out with time and date, signed by the office or teacher. Or the teacher can scribble something on a scrap of paper. Or they can have an object of some sort (wooden block, laminated card) that serves as the class hall pass. It varies widely by school. Some are particular about knowing where every kid is all the time and others (generally schools without major behavior problems) are more lax. Yes, they could be given a pass for the entire period, within reason, if they were a trustworthy student and if it was a safe school.

Schools are required to give teachers so many free periods, by law. So it might be a teacher who taught fewer classes than others, or it might more likely be an actual security guard. A security guard has a lower salary than a teacher, so when feasible it is cost effective in many cases to go that route. How many depends on the size of the school. A small school (500) might have one. A larger school (1500) might have 3-4 full time. Neighborhood also matters. The rougher the area, the more monitors you will have. A suburban school without major behavior problems may not have any at all, or have one split between several campuses.

Detention is generally assigned for minor infractions. To get ISS you have to do something serious like fighting, assault, cussing out the principal in public. ISS is not handed out for minor things.