Cell Phone Discussion Ensues in Council
There are many things at Hanover High that almost everybody does; one of these is using a cell phone. For many students, a cell phone provides a way to easily communicate with parents, friends, etc. It also acts as a source of information for many at the high school, whether it be assignments on Schoology, sports news, or political alerts. The problem, many teachers say, is that it can be a distraction when kids are constantly checking their phones in class.
For the past two weeks, Council has discussed the use of cell phones in the building with an emphasis on how they are handled in the classroom. Initially, the discussion was nothing more than that, with the members discussing different subjects regarding cell phone usage. These included points regarding the free culture that Hanover High has created and how that should be applied to cell phones, and how the current use of bins and other methods of collecting phones used by many teachers has affected the culture at Hanover High. This past Wednesday the discussion shifted more towards what to do regarding an actual motion to amend the Handbook. The Handbook would be changed to read:
“Students, staff, and school visitors may have cellular phones on school property. The use of these devices must not interfere with academics or constitute a threat to health and safety.
Cell phones must be silenced and stored away during classes, or may be used at the teacher’s discretion. Cell phones should only be used in public spaces where students are allowed to congregate such as the atrium, the café, the library, the resource centers and the great outdoors.
Cell phones may be used in corridors; however, cell phone users should be aware of the current handbook rule which states that ‘Behavior in corridors and foyers which disrupts instruction or harms the school’s generally positive atmosphere will not be permitted.’
Cell phones and other electronic devices must be turned off or turned to mute during any form of safety or emergency drill or procedure.”
Currently, the policy surrounding the use of cell phones in the school is outlined in the handbook. The policy was written in 2001 and states: “The use of these devices must not interfere with academics or constitute a threat to health and safety. Cell phones and pagers must be turned completely off during classes and in other places of learning such as resource rooms.” The full policy can be found in the handbook.
In Council’s Wednesday meeting, members seemed split over passing the motion, with the main member supporting it being junior Elizabeth Napier. She emphasized that the wording did not change much that was already in practice and that it was therefore worth passing. On the other hand, sophomore Clay Kynor emphasized that Council needs to have a discussion with everybody about how we as a school value cell phones. This opinion was reiterated by Ms. Ceplikas, who said that Council, and the school as a whole need to have a free-flowing discussion about cell phone usage. Thus, with an overwhelming majority, Council voted to close debate, postpone the motion and bring it back as a discussion. Despite this the motion has created a lot of discussion around the topic, and in the Principal’s Weekly email Council encouraged people to come to upcoming Council meeting on Wednesdays to discuss the topic.
As of now, many teachers restrict the use of cell phones by asking students to put their phones in sleeves, boxes or just in their pockets. Though no department has a blanket policy, some departments are considering one. The Social Studies Department, whose coordinator is Ms. Murray, is (according to her) considering what she describes as the “Gentine/Miller Policy.” She wrote in an email that both teachers have baskets which students put their phones in at the beginning of a period and that the department was supportive of that. On the other hand, Mr. Bourne, head of the English Department, said that his department wasn’t considering a department-wide policy but that many teachers have experimented with different ways to stop cell-phone usage. In an interview with Foreign Language Department Head Mr. Glenney, he described how the issue is more complicated than it may seem on the surface. He discussed how Hanover High must find a way to balance the belief in freedom for students at the school against the need to get work done. He added on to this by saying how “teachers based system create inconsistency,” which he knows creates confusion and is annoying for students, but that he doesn’t have a solution right now and anticipates more discussion on the subject.
Students voiced their opinions as well. Sophomore David Stoffel commented on the issue, saying, “I think you shouldn’t use [cell phones] in class, but [you] should be able to use it anywhere else; also, students shouldn’t be required to put their phones in a box at the beginning of class.” Other students agreed with David in saying that they don’t support teachers collecting cell phones in boxes. Some students such as junior Josh Chu also mentioned their support for restrictions but opposition to a wide-reaching ban, saying, “More restricted use is needed, but banning [cell phones] completely could pose many problems.” As of now, the discussion continues, both in the student body, and in Council.