Schools and parents battle over student cellphone bans

Schools and parents battle over student cellphone bans
Parents of U.S. students and the schools their kids attend are battling over a modern issue. The question is whether students should be allowed to bring cellphones to school.  According to the Associated Press (AP), educators say that the handsets make it harder for kids to learn since they are a major distraction.

Schools also note that some students are struggling with mental issues and behavioral problems that they believe are being exacerbated by the use of cellphones in school. But parents have a different point of view. They believe that with the continued threat of school shootings, carrying a phone to school is a necessary safety precaution.

School districts and parents battle over the banning of cellphones in school

Another reason why schools are reluctant to allow phones in classrooms is that it allows students to record what is actually happening to them during a school day. Parents are concerned that this gives schools a lack of accountability as their children can use their phones to record any questionable behavior of teachers and staff.

Shannon Moser, who has both an eighth and ninth grader attending school in Rochester, New York, says that fellow parents across both sides of the political spectrum were upset when the school district started locking up students' cellphones during the school day. "Everything is just so politicized, so divisive," she says. "And I think parents just have a general fear of what’s happening with their kids during the day."

Not all parents feel like Ms. Moser. Some moms and dads believe that their kids spend too much time in front of a screen and support the banning of cellphones at their children's schools. Liz Keren-Kolb, clinical associate professor of education technologies at the University of Michigan, said, "You still have the parents that want to have that direct line of communication and have concerns over their child not being able to have that communication."

Keren-Kolb also understands the other side of the equation. She says, "But I do think that there’s more of an empathy and an understanding toward their child being able to put away their device so they can really focus on the learning in the classroom, and wanting that face-to-face experience."

The National Center for Education Statistics noted that over ten years ago, 90% of schools prohibited the use of cellphones and that figure dropped to 65% for the 2015-2016 school year. By the 2019-2020 school year, 76 % of schools banned handsets. Two states, California and Tennessee have passed laws allowing schools to prohibit cellphones.

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The Washington School District in western Pennsylvania banned cellphones for the first time this year. Students were using their handsets in the hallways and the cafeteria and one  teacher who works for the district said that kids were calling home and taking calls in the middle of class. District Superintendent George Lammay said that the ban was the right thing to do because it helps the students learn without getting distracted, and it also helps them engage with their fellow students.

Schools say phones are a distraction while parents say that they can save lives

Lammay notes that the idea behind the cellphone ban in schools is not to limit students from contacting their families. Speaking of families, in at least one school district, complaints from parents over a cellphone ban led to the creation of new rules that both the school district and parents could live with, In Colorado's Brush School District, phones had been banned due to online bullying. But parents were upset as they wanted their kids to have access to their devices.

The new policy allows kids to carry their phones with them at all times, but they must be turned off and out of sight. It doesn't seem like much of a solution at all, but at least in the case of an emergency, the phones can be turned on. However, when it comes to some situations, seconds matter and while the new rules did give kids access to their phones, these students still cannot be contacted by their parents.
The lone argument for banning phones from schools is that it is a distraction that could keep children from learning. Or is that the argument at all? Some schools might worry about students recording certain teacher-student interactions. And should the banning of cellphones in school be allowed considering that parents are anxious to make sure that they can get in touch with their kids at all times? Additionally, in the case of an emergency, most parents would prefer that their children have the ability to dial 9-1-1 to summon help.

Right now it seems that school districts have the advantage in this argument, but over time the parents who want to remove the cellphone bans from schools could gain control.
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