BY ADAM PRESTON
Unfair, destructive, volatile, fair, justifiable, and sound are descriptions of our current cell phone policy within the Independence School District from students and staff. Generally speaking, most would agree that the phone policy in its current iteration is in poor shape. Whether it is inconsistent enforcement, hypocritical action, or just unfair in how it leads to students being treated, the cell phone policy in how it stands currently is more than lackluster; and quite frankly, I’m not the only one with these feelings.
Two teachers, who have requested they remain anonymous, when asked how they thought phones should be handled, said it should be taken on a “teacher-by-teacher basis because students will always gain access to their phones”, citing the policy as ‘regressive’ and believed students simply needed to learn responsibility and when it is appropriate to use their phone.
This theme is not too far from the perspective of another teacher here at Truman who says that, in a perfect world, phones “are an educational tool.” However, he felt that students would likely still abuse it, referencing it as “doable, but hard to practice.” Suffice it to say, even amongst teachers, the cell phone policy is more than unappealing, but frankly a hindrance to students’ ability to learn. When asked how Mr. Keyser handles students with cell phones, he says, “if I had sent every student with a cell phone to the office, I would be sending students every hour, which is disruptive to their ability to learn.”
Another problem that often comes to mind is the handling of enforcement surrounding the phone policy. To many, it feels like there is a double standard about phones in the school with teachers being allowed to be on their phones, and it doesn’t help student’s perceptions of the phone policy when a student is yelled at by a teacher for having their phone out only to then go to their desk and pull out their phone. A freshman, who also has chosen to remain anonymous, was there to witness that very situation above and recounted how hypocritical it was that students are punished for taking part in a common piece of modern society. Then take senior Wyett Tallman who, after receiving a phone call from his mother to notify him of a family emergency and tragedy, his teacher proceeded to yell at him for having his phone out and for the fact it rang; citing the teacher as someone who “I think has a power trip due to the policy,” with Noah Goicoria, a sophomore, said it best when asked about his thoughts: “I agree that we shouldn’t have our phones out in class,” he says, “[but] sometimes the staff is hypocritical. I will see them with their phones out a fair amount.”.
Now, of course, there is a plethora of concern from the District’s end. Whether it is worrying about student productivity, or if students are passing their tests and quizzes with sufficient grading. None of these, however, trump the largest concern behind the phone policy: Legal Issues. You see, there is a list of students who, under no circumstances on district property, cannot be recorded or taken a picture of. This is over fears of any possible harm coming to these students if any form of media with their persons in it which, if the rule is disregarded, can lead to a lawsuit towards the district or the school; though this would not be the first time we’ve seen that.
Still, this is a legitimate cause for concern regarding student safety, which is all the more reason to incentivize students to learn when and where it is appropriate to use their phones. Students don’t tend to learn to obey and respect a policy if all it does is punish them. Dominic Carullo, a sophomore here at Truman finds that the current policy is way too strict and does not help students be successful. “I feel it is wrong to send good students, non-disruptive students, to the office to hand over their phones,” Dominic stated, citing that cooperation would “make the enforcement of the policy easier” by having students be accountable for proper phone use instead of purely punishing students for having their phones out.
But what else could be done? How else could students gain more freedoms here while still having a respectable phone policy? Another idea is letting teachers handle taking away phones, and to allow students access to their phones if they are finished with work. The idea around this is that it gives teachers more power, gives students more freedom, and teaches them responsibility, while simultaneously still enforcing the school’s phone policy.
Regardless though, one thing can be determined by all of this: If such a discussion is necessary to have, then is the phone policy working? I believe it is more than fair to say that it has failed in more ways than one, and it needs to be changed if we want to make Truman a safer place overall.