As Principal, I have made a plea to the staff of CAM High School to come to together and address several issues in regards to student conduct. The first of that being students with cellphones.
Before diving into the logistics of what I've asked the staff to do, or cite School Board Code or the Handbook verbatim, here are my thoughts.
We have been enforcing the cellphone rule to some degree, but inconsistently from staff member to staff member. I can think of several students who's cellphones have ended up in the office a half-dozen times. I can also think of a handful of students who's parents have been called to come get them and magically they aren't a problem for those students.
We need to be consistent and hopefully reduce and eliminate cellphone distractions. To do so we've moved the cellphone holding area to Mrs. Meyer's room where she can have students, who use their cellphones during the school day outside of the main office, without permission, to contact parents to have the cellphones picked up after school. We may give everyone one "my bad" where all they have to do is come down and pick it up after school on their first violation.
What is so bad about having cellphones at school? They are a major distraction. Our students are networked together in small and large groups and most spend a good portion of the day communicating with each other. This is a tremendous distraction!
Cellphones vibrate or go off to some degree when calls or texts come in. This disrupts the classroom and now affect other students. And then the game of "keep the cellphone from the teacher" begins.
"What, it wasn't mine," "Aww come on, I was just checking the time," "My parents need to contact me." Now the class suffers and the teacher has to get them back and focused on the lesson.
Bottom line is we could ban them all together and impose stricter rules. I don't want to go there necessarily. At a recent "School Administrators of Iowa" conference on School Law it was confirmed that schools could ban cellphones from the building.
I believe in being more progressive than that. Banning cellphones would just bury them deeper in some students pockets; check-in-checkout plans would be a nightmare to manage; referrals would skyrocket; time I need to help the school with instructional support would vanish. But if necessary we will consider a ban.
I also believe in giving students a chance to reach a higher expectation for personal cellphone management than where we're at with it currently.
I'm prepared to drop a cellphone ban from consideration if students can manage their cellphones better from here on out and accept punishments given for unacceptable cellphone use.
Our Cellphone policy in a nutshell: You may have cellphones in the building, but they can not create a distraction, or be in plain site during the school day from 8:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Exception: Cellphones can be used in the Main Office or in an area designated by a staff member.
The key is the student must ask a teacher/administrator/secretary if they can use it and be ready to accept "No" for an answer or "you can go to the office (or location) and use it".
Penalty: Students will be asked to go to Mrs. Meyer's room (The Room of Opportunity) to turn over their cellphone. She will document it with a "Blue Slip" minor referral and after one free violation the parents will be called to come get the cellphone. If students refuse to go to the room and do this they will be cited with a "Blue Slip" major referral which will mean either detention, community service time, extra curricular privileges suspended or Saturday school.
Cellphones are here, I realize that and I'm not fighting the fact they are a part of the culture for just about everyone. All I want is a learning environment that is not effected from the almost addictive nature of their use.