While perhaps not a rite of passage, it certainly offered the right of passage. The hall pass was a permission ship, a declaration of sorts that you had the right to pass through the halls of school – unescorted and with the teacher’s blessing. In its simplest form, it was a roundtrip ticket to the bathroom and worth milking for all it was worth. It gave you a few precious moments of independence to ponder the imponderables, like “So-and-so is really cute” and “I wish the bell would ring,”
Hall passes weren’t, however, just for trips to the bathroom; sometimes they were (hopefully, at least) a one-way ticket to the Nurse’s Office, where you just might be granted a reprieve from the rest of the day’s activities. Of course, the least popular hall passes were the ones that directed students to the dreaded Principal’s Office. The journey there was often slothful enough to make a turtle seem downright swift by comparison. And if one suspected that they might be in trouble, the walk could seem akin to a stroll down death row.
This record-keeping and pass-carrying was all in the event that the student crossed paths with the infamous authority figure known as the Hall Monitor. The solemn and sworn duty of the hall monitor was to ensure that nobody would ditch class or engage in otherwise troublesome behavior when they were supposed to be in class. Being a hall monitor wasn’t necessarily difficult, but it certainly presented some challenges. Hall monitors were known to face seduction, bribery, blackmail and even friendship abuses all in the name of someone wanting to get away with being in the hallway without a pass.
As Bobby Brady from The Brady Bunch could attest, it was a tough and thankless job, but somebody had to do it. More recent addicts of pop culture might even recall a 2006 episode of South Park featuring Cartman as a hall monitor who assumes the role of bounty hunter, desperate to catch hall-pass violating criminals and bring them to justice. The televised saga of these fictional hall monitors clearly demonstrated that the position of hall monitor was often abused. Such is often the case with any acquisition of power. After all, everyone had to show his or her pass to the hall monitor, or detention might follow. In fact, (in many American schools at least) hall monitors were often “switched out” so that everyone got a turn and nobody became too power greedy.
Hall passes have stood the test of time and the test of pop culture (just about every show about school, from Saved by the Bell to the occasional After School Special has featured a hall monitor). To this day, they remain an effective way to keep close tabs on who has a legitimate reason to be wandering the halls and who is up to no good. Unless, of course, you were lucky enough to display any notable talent at counterfeiting or signature forgery. Then you could live the life of a scholastic vagabond, a nomad with free reign of the school grounds. Of course, should you be found out, you were likely to get one of those not-so-good hall passes.
Are you a former hall monitor (it’s okay; you can tell us) or ever had a nasty run in with one in your scholastic years? Have any memories of hall passes to share? Feel free to recall all those memories for us in our comments section, as we pay tribute to this childhood tradition and an oft-thankless job.