New J-DHS Hall Monitors Stir Controversy Among Students

Hall Monitor Brian Marrero; Photo Credit: Dakota Wynn, '23

J-DHS recently hired two new hall monitors: Gabrielle Vaught and Brian Marrero. However, the position of an active hall monitor patrolling the halls during class periods has been met with criticism from students, and Vaught in particular has stirred controversy after her social media accounts were leaked. She has also been criticized for using unnecessary measures to catch students misbehaving, and has since resigned, while Marrero has been received positively by students.

But why is the position of an active hall monitor so controversial in the first place? “I understand the intentions of the school hiring the monitor. However, it is unfair that a very small group of people have caused this change and there is a negative effect on the rest of the students in school. Although the administration might not see the issue of asking for a pass before going to the bathroom or another class, it is a huge inconvenience. First, it usually disrupts the whole class in whatever is being taught. Second, it takes more time to write and distribute. Jamesville-DeWitt prides itself on saying it teaches our students to be prepared for college and the world beyond. By adding this monitor they have added another means of micromanaging our young adults. How is holding our hands through going to other classrooms and the bathroom plausible in real life? Give us a little respect and responsibility. Going outside the classroom during class is a privilege and it shouldn’t be taken away from the entire student body because of the actions of a few students,” explains senior Kate Barclay.

Barclay referenced the activities of a few students causing the hiring of the hall monitors. Specifically, many students have been skipping class to roam the hallways and vaping or smoking in the bathrooms. “When I started here, we had three hall monitors on top of the assistant principals and me as principals. Our enrollment went down a little bit and we had some budget cuts and we had to reallocate some folks. In the course of that some of the hall monitoring was lost, although we’ve always wanted it to be here. We’ve been able to supplement it some. But we thought it was a good opportunity — as we came out of the pandemic, as we began to re-regulate school and get back into a regular routine for school — that we bring back what we had for hall monitors — that we have that situation and that presence. We want hall monitors to do a number of things, but mostly we just need to make certain that everybody — students, teachers — is doing what they’re supposed to be doing, and are focusing on teaching, learning, and not having to worry about anything else. That’s been our general approach.” says Principal Paul Gasparini. “This has been a conversation for a little while, and it was a conversation coming out of the pandemic. We both know there have been some difficult situations that have come on social media, but those haven’t been the prompters for moving in the direction of more general supervision at the high school — we’ve wanted that for a while.”

Despite the administration’s reasoning, students feel they are being controlled to an unnecessary extent. According to senior Maddie Carter, “My opinion and some other people I’ve talked to’s opinion is that the hall monitor (Vaught) seems too overbearing. Almost all of the students that are in the hallway during class are students going to the bathroom so checking to see if they have a pass every time they enter the hallway is extremely unnecessary. In addition, it dissuades people from using the bathroom since they don’t want to have to interrupt class just to ask for a pass. It is extremely unhealthy if we are causing people not to want to use the bathroom just because they don’t want to interrupt class or deal with being questioned in the hallway. I believe our original system of signing out to use the bathroom is a perfectly fine system since it keeps track of where people are for COVID reasons and you can still see where people are going. It seems like a rather unnecessary position but since it is a position that is here to stay, I believe [Vaught] should be less overbearing.”

Senior Christian McVicker echoes Carter’s sentiment. “To be honest I don’t exactly know how I feel about the addition of a hall monitor to the J-D community. Though I understand the circumstances that make the school think we need one, I believe that having a hall monitor is still unnecessary. From what I know, the job of the hall monitor is to look out for suspicious activity in the hallways, especially the bathrooms, but for the time being, having to ask teachers for a hall pass to use the bathroom and disrupting a class, then being asked again by the hall monitor for a pass, just seems too complicated for students that just want to actually use the bathroom. I heard that the school was making laminated passes for the future, and I think this would help make the process easier.” The school has since made these laminated passes.

In response to students’ concerns, Gasparini states, “Every employee here is here for students, and we want students to feel as though they’re safe and secure here with any employee. So that’s really important. That being stated, I think it is getting used to more expectations, which is why I had the Zoom meeting [on Thursday]. It’s just reinforcing our expectations. I think that’s going to take some getting used to. I think there always will be a little pushback. I think that’s natural. We don’t want anyone to feel harassed. On the other hand, we do think it’s important to understand that we have some expectations for simple things as well.”

Teachers share Gasparini’s opinion on the benefits of the hall monitors, with many of them reporting several students outside of their classroom at once, missing valuable instruction time. According to English teacher Courtney Romeiser, “Years ago we had two-three full-time hall monitors who roamed the halls and got to know the students and staff. They were just a part of our school community, and they helped monitor the hallways to maintain a calm, safe learning environment. Over time, my understanding is we lost those positions to attrition with economic shifts and budget cuts. In more recent years, we’ve had staff assigned to hall duty for different class periods, yet as we’ve noticed the need for support in the hallways on a more consistent basis, there was the mention of adding aids to do this. Students and staff will need to be more consistent with asking for and signing hall passes when students are moving through the building, and this should help limit any distractions in the halls and keep the focus on learning in classrooms. I’m happy that we have the added support to help our building function better on a daily basis.”

The positive opinion of teachers on the hall monitor position seems unanimous. “I think that having a hall monitor is a good idea and an effective position. She is the extra eyes and ears that we the teachers might not have especially when we are teaching and are not in the hallways,” says French teacher Solace Amankwah.

History teacher Andrew Cottet agrees. “I think the position of hall monitor is essential to a well functioning school. Students need to be where they’re supposed to be throughout the day and the addition of two hall monitors to our building can help ensure that.”

Many students have become used to the previous system of a few hall monitors sitting stationary at desks in the corners of hallways, rather than two active hall monitors patrolling the halls constantly, asking to see hall passes. Additionally, many wonder why a female hall monitor was hired followed weeks later by a male hall monitor. Why did the administration feel the need to hire both a male and female monitor? “I think it’s always good to have as many choices as you can. Sometimes girls go to male teachers and sometimes males are more comfortable with women teachers. Those things are fluid. We have male counselors, we have male and female administrators. I think having the balance and the option for students is good. We don’t want male teachers going into the girls’ bathrooms. We don’t want female teachers to have to go into the boys’ bathrooms. We have to be aware of the gender-neutral situation, too. I don’t want to not comment there. We just feel that if you have more eyes — more balance — then it’s a more positive atmosphere,” says Gasparini.

The COVID-19 pandemic was to some degree a factor that necessitated the position of the hall monitor. As Gasparini notes, “With or without the pandemic we’d have hall monitors. This is a conversation we’ve had for a few years. We brought in, for example, the school resource officer before the pandemic as well. That supervisory presence is something we’ve been discussing for a few years. That being stated, I think the pandemic has caused unease and tension among many people. It’s been a very unsettling thing. To the extent that more eyes can help people settle down and keep focused, certainly, that’s helpful. But these conversations predated the pandemic.”

The concerns of the student body on the position of the hall monitor as a whole, as well as the social media posts by Vaught, have been raised to the administration. Specifically, Student Board Representative Grace Evans brought up the concerns to the Board of Education, informing them that students were frustrated about the abrupt implementation of the hall monitors and that students were calling for professional methods to align with district goals. The Board did not comment on the matter at their December 6 meeting.

“I feel like the administration should have explained to students their reasoning behind the position. Because it was never explained, it feels like the student body was left out of the loop on an issue that mainly affects them,” says junior Anka Chiorini.

Concerns have been raised by the student body about the content of Vaught’s social media accounts. In particular, Vaught has published lewd TikTok videos and Facebook posts with sexual content. Students report feeling unsafe having Vaught as one of their two hall monitors. In an anonymous statement, one student stated, “I think her behavior is quite unprofessional, especially for someone in a job working with kids.”

In response, Gasparini states, “Our primary concern is always the health, safety, and well-being of our students. Any student who reports misconduct that is detrimental to the safety, security, and physical or emotional well being of students will be taken very seriously. Their concerns will be thoroughly investigated and responded to. We take pride in our school. Misconduct that casts a poor light on our school community and potentially endangers student well-being will be strongly addressed.”

“It seemed as if the other hall monitor was doing her job but in an obnoxious manner. The new hall monitor seems very attentive, and he does this in a more professional way than the previous monitor. He already made it clear that he is very approachable and excited to keep the school safe,” says junior Mark Bratslavsky.

Vaught has also been accused of racial profiling. According to one student, “A kid in my class had gone to the bathroom, keep in mind he is a Black male, and was asked for a pass by the hall monitor. A few minutes later my other friend, who is a white male, had also gone to the bathroom and had asked the hall monitor if she needed to see his pass and she said ‘No, I trust you.’ I (a Black female) later went to the bathroom that same period and she had asked for my pass, which I showed her. We all talked about this during class and thought it was an instance of racial profiling.”

According to Gasparini, “I can’t comment on any employees.” Vaught has not been seen in the halls of J-DHS for several days now. It seems Marrero may take over as the sole hall monitor, at least in the immediate future since Vaught has not been seen. The District Office also refused to comment on the original hall monitor. However, Superintendent Peter Smith confirmed to the RamPage that Vaught resigned from her position. It is rumored that the district will soon hire a replacement hall monitor.

On the other hand, Marrero, who was introduced to the school by Gasparini on a Zoom call Thursday morning, has received positive feedback from students. “I’m really glad to have him here; he made a great impression on us as a great resource for the students and he’s a really nice guy,” says junior Mikey Meskos.

“I think he seems friendly and easy to go to if we need help with something. I think hall monitors just need to become a regular thing and people just have to know it’s his job,” says junior Connie Zhang.

Despite all the backlash over the hall monitor position at J-DHS, some students are pushing back, reminding everyone that the hall monitors are real people who are just doing their jobs. “Honestly I don’t really know what’s going on. I just know that we have a hall monitor and people are saying a lot of stuff about it. I had one encounter with her (Vaught) and she seemed nice,” says a student who wishes to remain anonymous.

Nevertheless, Gasparini stresses the need for the hall monitor position and reiterates that the position is here to stay. “Our hall monitor is there to help us follow our rules so our teachers and students can stay focused on education,” said Gasparini on the Thursday morning Zoom call. However, he hopes to take the opinions of students into account throughout the process, making changes when necessary. “I have spoken to our student government president (Lucy Heflin and Josh Aitken) and our student board member (Grace Evans), and they all feel comfortable coming to me. But I’ve also spoken to individual students who have emailed me and come in to talk to me. My door is always open to any student who has any specific or general concern. I’m more than happy to talk to anybody.”

According to Marrero, “I’m going to address [students’ concerns] as a human being. See, I’m a human being first. We’ve gotten away from so many different things. This world is so divided. For me, I understand that children are the most precious resource that we have. So I want you guys to move forward. I had a background in law enforcement, so talking with people and communicating with people — I have a vested interest and I want to see you succeed. You guys are the ones that can go and make the world better. So that’s the approach that I have. I have a human approach.”

I’m Isaiah Steinberg, editor in chief of the RamPage. I’ve been a writer since I was a freshman, and I greatly enjoy journalism. I am very excited to be working with the wonderful RamPage staff this year!