PhoneDog readers had some pretty strong reactions to the news item on the Abliene, TX, school district charging students $15 to return confiscated phones. And I don't blame them. Having to cough up money on a first offense is a pretty stiff measure. But is suspension preferable?
Muscogee county school kids in Columbus, GA, are about to find out.
?An environment conducive to teaching and learning?
The school board is instituting a new cell phone policy for the 2009-2010 academic year that bans electronics devices, including cell phones. The board doesn't want these gadgets interfering with studies during the day, and prohibits them in classrooms, study halls and libraries, as well as hallways, cafeterias, bathrooms and locker rooms.
Older students can't use their devices during school hours, while elementary kids aren't allowed to have phones on the grounds at all. Punishments for infractions are no joke: Depending on the number of offenses, penalties range from having handsets confiscated (for three to 10 days) to school suspensions and parent-teacher meetings.
Okay, let me see if I have this straight: So, cell phones in school = bad, penalizing students to discourage said offenses = good. Is that right? Really? Let me just say for the record that I don't think so.
Stuck in the past
This is a disturbing trend. In my last post on this topic, I put out the idea that, instead of forcing students to ditch their devices, maybe schools should be figuring out how to use the technology as a teaching tool. It could prep young adults for the workplaces of tomorrow ? or at least make academics more interesting and engaging.
One PhoneDog reader posted an excellent response, commenting on the sad state of affairs in dealing with school administrators on the topic of cell phones:
teacherlibrarian @ Jul 20 11:50 AM
As an elementary library teacher, I would LOVE to use cell phone in class. Polleverywhere.com is just one example of how they can be used to support and enhance education. The problem I run into is that the district I work for doesn't agree in the slightest. I risk losing my job if I told students, "Hey, by the way, bring your cell phone to the library on Wednesday for a project." And crazy as it sounds, yes, breaking a school district's acceptable use policy is a serious enough offense to warrant firing in most districts. Schools are afraid of getting sued because a student uses tech inappropriately on school grounds. It's the district bureaucracy and the laws that need reform. There are MANY teachers who would encourage cell phone use if we weren't being held back by the system.
That's pretty pathetic when a teacher can get fired for being creative.
Enough is enough
Considering that companies are just beginning to recruit people with texting abilities, and have long been trying to crack the profitability model for the cellular marketing platform, phones are only going to play a more crucial role in business as time goes on. And kids who are the most familiar with this medium now could be the ones in the future with the best chances for success. That's not to say there shouldn't be rules, but why not look at this as a learning opportunity instead of a reason to bring down the iron fist?
When will administrators learn that, when it comes to a cultural phenomenon, beating it back until it goes away has never ? and will never ? be successful? It didn't work for rock and roll, and it's not going to work with cell phones. How long it will take for school districts to give up trying, however, is anyone's guess.
If I were a parent with a child in the Muscogee district, I?m pretty sure I?d be banging on the principal's door, asking why he's trying to limit my kid's exposure to this ubiquitous modern technology, instead of using it to ? you know ? educate.
(FYI, if you?re curious, here's the press release that the Muscogee County School Board's Director of Communications, Valerie Fuller, put out about the new policy.)
Date: July 20, 2009
New Cell Phone Procedures
(Columbus, GA)-The Muscogee County School District implements new cell phone procedures for middle schools and high schools for the 2009-2010 school year. The new procedures are designed to provide a learning environment that is conducive to teaching and learning without the interference of cell phone use during the course of the instructional day in areas such as, but not limited to, hallways, cafeterias, bathrooms, and locker rooms. According to the current district policy, students are not allowed to use electronic devices, including cell phones, during the course of the school day. Elementary students are not allowed to have cell phones.
Parents and students will be informed of the new procedures prior to school. Students will be granted a two (2) week grace period. However, effective August 20, 2009, the following new procedures will be implemented:
1st Offense- Cell phone will be turned in to the principal or designee.
Parent may pick-up the phone after three (3) school days.
Parent may pick-up phone at the close of the school day for thirty (30) minutes (2:45 p.m. to 3:15 p.m. for High School and 3:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. for Middle School) or give an adult written permission to pick-up so schools may verify by asking for identification of the adult picking up the phone).
2nd Offense-Student assigned administrative detention.
Parent may pick-up phone after five (5) school days at the end of the school day. (See 1st Offense)
3rd Offense- Student assigned In-School Suspension for two (2) days.
Parent may pick up the phone after ten (10) school days.
Mandatory parent conference is held.
4th Offense- Student will be suspended out of school for two (2) days for each offense due to defiance.
Parent may pick-up phone at the end of the school day.
(See 1st Offense)
If the parent/guardian is adamant that he or she cannot allow the phone to be held for the number of days listed in the proposed procedures, then the parent/guardian chooses for his or her son/daughter/ward to accept a two (2) day out-of school suspension in lieu of the phone being held.
In addition, each principal should:
- Have all students and parents to sign stating that they understand the new cell phone procedures.
- Have a secure a place to house the cell phones confiscated. Each phone should be labeled and kept in a secure place.
- Have a notebook for quick references for violators of the new cell phone procedures (documentation sheets are attached).
- Identify the person or persons to receive confiscated cell phones in the building.
[via WRBBL News]