Howard County Schools Loosen Grip on Cell Phone Use During School Hours

Cell phone policy
Students use their cell phones during lunch to text friends, check Facebook posts, and update status’. (Photograph, Syra Kayani).

Last year, students were expected to keep cell phones and other electronic devices “off and out of sight” from 7:25 to 2:10. That rule changed this year.

The administration now asks students to use the “threshold-to-threshold” rule. According to administration, students need to put away devices before they enter the threshold of the classroom and can take them out again once they leave. This door to door policy is supposed to keep personal time from interfering with class time.

According to Wilde Lake Principal Mr. LeMon, “The difference is that you’re allowed to have them [cell phones] out from bell to bell, in the hallways, and during lunch. If the bell has rung, your electronic device should not be seen or heard. We especially don’t want to interfere with classroom instruction.”

Sophomore Ethan Newman thinks the new policy is a step forward for student rights.

“I like the new rule,” said Newman. “Sometimes I need to quickly check my phone, and now I don’t have to sneak it. If I forget my gym uniform, stay after school, or forget lunch money, I can text my mom between classes.”

Newman hopes the new rule means that cell phones will be integrated into the classroom in the not-so-distant future. “Maybe soon we can use our phones in class to look something up,” said Newman. “Hopefully this means we’ll be using technology more in school.”

Junior Irina Higgins thinks the policy change is a logical move for the administration. “Education will be centered on technology in the future, so it doesn’t make sense to fight the inevitable,” said Higgins.

“I like that I don’t have to hide my phone if I need to tell my parents something,” said Higgins. “Students don’t get in trouble as much in the hallways now. I can talk to friends or look at a social media sites. The way I see it, if you are using your phone in the hallway, you’re more likely to pay attention in class.”

Senior TJ Mallo is excited for the new rule. “I think that it’s about time,” said Mallo. “I’m grateful that they passed this policy. I think this means we are progressing towards technology use in more productive and useful manners.”

While students and administrators seem optimistic about the new policy, some teachers have concerns about the new rule.

“You know, I don’t really see anyone whipping out their cell phone to work on a parabola equation between classes,” said Art and Photography teacher Mr. Pickett. “I’m accepting of the new rule, with reservations. I would be stupid if I thought kids were only using them [cell phones] as educational tools. I mostly see kids using cell phones between classes for pleasure.”

Mr. Pickett still sees potential in the new cell phone policy from a teaching perspective.

“I see phones as tools for work, play, and networking,” said Mr. Pickett. “They can supplement and further education, or distract and stunt education. Hopefully the new policy isn’t abused. As long as it isn’t abused, we can move forward.”

Wilde Lake G/T Resource teacher Mrs. Dixon sees another problem with the policy from a parenting perspective. Mrs. Dixon is worried that parents would be required to foot the bill for more innovative teaching methods.

“In 2013, teachers presuppose all students have a computer or internet access,” said Mrs. Dixon. “It wasn’t too long ago when that wasn’t the case. When will these new devices become mandatory? The new rule could be a Pandora’s Box for parents.”

Despite concerns about the new rule, Mrs. Dixon believes in the merits of technology and education.

“I think education and technology are almost becoming inseparable,” said Mrs. Dixon. “The key is that technology is auxiliary to personal interaction between the teacher and the student, not a substitute for it. I don’t think technology is going away and we would be foolish to try and curtail it or slow it down.”