BY STELLA BRYAN
On average, how much are you on your phone daily? 2 hours? 4 hours? Maybe even 8? According to a recent report by Common Sense Media, it shows that teens spend up to nine hours a day using electronics for entertainment purposes. A full school day at Truman High School is from 7:15am to 2:25pm, a little over 7 hours long. If on average teens are spending 9 hours a day on their phones, with a 7 hour school day, students are bound to reach for their phones during class time. So what did Truman do? They implemented a new policy.
Already nervous about a new year, the latest cell phone policy intensified the unfamiliar footing some students would start off on. School is a place to learn, we know that, but many of us also know that during passing time it’s a given that we are allowed to get on our phones, right? Wrong. According to ISD High School Student Handbook for the years 2019-2020, “If a student has their device out during the school day during class or during passing time without permission, the student will be directed by staff to the front office. There, the office will put the device in a secure Yondr pouch and return it to the student.”
Now, these Yondr pouches aren’t something students are familiar with either. They’re small, grey and green pouches, that are sealed shut using a strong magnetic pull and are opened the same way. ISD isn’t the only school implementing this “ban”, many other districts around the United States are doing the same. According to National Public Radio (NPR), City on a Hill Circuit Street charter school in Boston is doing something very similar. “[…] students entering school in the morning are met by administrators fanned out at the front door with their hands out. One by one, they take student’s phones slip them into a small pouch, and lock them closed with a snap that works like the security tags you find on clothing at department stores.” Our cell phone policy is looking pretty good now, right? That’s debatable.
Effort put into your high school career is important. Socialization skills are important. Time management skills are important. These things build us into the person we want to be in the future. ISD is just trying to reach these goals at a faster and more effective pace, which is understandable, but why enforce this policy during passing time? Passing time at Truman is 5 minutes with a 2 minute bell that sounds after 3 minutes of passing time has progressed. Being tardy is one’s own fault, not a cell phone or a friend. If you make the decision to stay behind and socialize with friends, you’re at fault for being tardy.
Class time however, is fathomable. If we are actively involving ourselves in a classroom discussion, quiz, or worksheet, our undivided attention should be on that task. This is common sense. I recognize that part of the cell phone policy is an attempt to improve grades and test scores overall, but the severity of the issue is being blown out of proportion. According to niche.com, the Independence School District has an average graduation rate of 96%. Along with that, the average ACT score in the district is a 23, 2.2 points higher than the national average. The academics are good, the graduation rate is good, and Truman was doing just fine before they implemented the cell phone policy. So why did they implement it so abruptly?
The only answer we’ve received in regards to the new policy is to improve timeliness and grades. Yes, teens can be on their phones for up to 9 hours on average. Enforcing a cell phone policy may be the best decision that ISD has ever made. It may increase their graduation rate more, improve test scores, and raise the grades of students who may be struggling. At the end of the day someone’s always going to have a problem with another’s actions, but you have the power to change that.
So, what ways can we change and improve this policy to fit the liking of both students and staff? First thing’s first, it needs to be less strict. Not being able to be on a cell phone all day is easy, but some needs cannot be met without it. For example, if a student doesn’t ride the bus home and doesn’t have their ride finalized, how are they going to get in contact with the person who picks them up? What if there’s a family emergency? We need to meet in the middle. Students should have passing time to check their phones, class time can be off limits.
Like stated previously, a big part of this policy is to improve the timeliness of students. Being on your cell phone during passing time is forbidden due to this. But will it even effect tardies? The answer is most likely no. The lobby is the most popular place to be during passing time. We have kids standing in the middle of the hallways, lobby, and around the stairs. They do this to stop and communicate with their friends during their 5 minute break. Unless Truman wants to tighten the ropes and completely ban socialization at school, tardies are a problem that can’t be solved.
The solution is simple, allow passing time at the very least. Meet the students in the middle. Even if given lunchtime to access their phones, what’s the point in banning them during passing time? If it’s doing nothing to improve tardiness, then why implement it then? Class time is understandable except in regards to classes like “Social and Online Media” or other online courses. There needs to be exceptions for classes where phone access is needed. At the end of the day, the solution that’ll make everyone happy is to listen to both the Truman class and the staff. Take notes from the student’s opinion and ideas and from the faculty. Right now if we keep it this way, all we’ll gain is more tardies and increased bathroom trips.