Schools battle new student distraction: cellular phones
SLAYTON -- As the world adapts to being cellular, businesses, governments and schools have had to devise new policies regarding cell phone use. With the addition of cell phones capable of taking photos and video, policies have had to change to ke...
SLAYTON -- As the world adapts to being cellular, businesses, governments and schools have had to devise new policies regarding cell phone use. With the addition of cell phones capable of taking photos and video, policies have had to change to keep up.
As of Tuesday morning, cell phones were banned at Murray County Central (MCC) for students because of the immense distraction the phones were causing. Before the ban, MCC policy stated cell phones could be kept in lockers and checked for messages between classes, but any calls that needed to be returned had to be made from the office phones during the school day.
"But there were still a lot of kids carrying them during the school day," said MCC Superintendent/High School Principal Steve Jones.
While there were instances of calls being made and received during the school day, the biggest problem, Jones said, was coming from text messaging.
"There are kids so good at it, they can have their phone in their pocket and text without even looking at it," he explained. "The biggest impact of that is lack of concentration in school. We are an academic institution."
To put a stop to the distraction of cell phones, students are no longer able to carry them on school grounds or even leave them in a locker. They must bring their cell phone to the office in the morning and may pick it up after school lets out for the day.
On Tuesday, approximately 25 students turned in cell phones. By Wednesday, most parents had received a letter about the new policy, and an announcement was made. More than 100 students turned in a phone.
"That's about a third of our students," Jones said.
In the letter sent home to parents, Jones explained the ban on cell phones was not a decision lightly made and not necessarily permanent.
"I understand that this change in policy may seem a bit drastic to you or your MCC student," the letter states. "With that in mind, I am willing to give students the chance to earn back the privilege of bringing cell phones into the school and abiding by the current policy of keeping them in lockers during the day."
Jones said if the students are compliant with the ban through Feb. 28, cell phones will once again be permitted in the building provided they are not carried throughout the school day.
"Five, or even three years ago, educators didn't have to deal with this kind of thing," Jones said. "What scares me the most is cell phones and pictures in the locker rooms."
Because of the potential for students to take pictures with cell phones while others are showering and dressing, cell phones are banned from locker rooms. Jones admits, though, that any ban on cell phones can be difficult to enforce, as the phones are small and easily hidden.
"But the loss of classroom attention is the big thing," he said. "I need parents to be on board with me and to reinforce our rules. This problem is an impediment to education."
Calls from parents after the ban went into effect were all positive and supportive of the new rules.
Jones said the vast majority of students followed the cell phone policy, but "there are always a few that believe it doesn't mean them."
Other high schools in southwest Minnesota seem to have standard policies regarding cell phones. In the Fulda School District, students are allowed to carry cell phones in a purse or a pocket, but cannot take them out or use them during school hours. Adrian High School has a similar policy, and if a student is caught using a cell phone during class hours, the phone is confiscated and must be picked up by a parent.
In Windom, students must leave cell phones off and in a locker during school hours. If caught with a cell phone, students must get the phone back from Principal Mark Roubinek and take a moment to review the policy with him. To date during this school year, Roubinek said there has been about 60 infractions of the rule.
At Worthington High School, students who have cell phones confiscated for a first offense are required to learn and recite the school's policy on electronic devices to Assistant Principal Paul Karelis before they can have their phone back.
Karelis said policy changes are being looked at in District 518 that could be either tougher or more lenient on cell phone usage.
"In today's day and age, everything is based on communication," he said Wednesday. "Should they be able to have cell phones on them throughout the day? Either way, the kids need a clear description in writing on what that policy is."