Monday, September 26, 2011

Embracing a Policy Alternative

Soon after I arrived to Hattiesburg in February, I started riding the bus each morning to speak with students and get their input on our district and policies. Students repeatedly mentioned the district’s cell phone policy as an issue. My first meeting with the district’s student advisory council found the same thing. The students there also brought up as issues around the cell phone policy, and they suggested ideas about using them in class. After these meetings, I did some research about our discipline data and alternative cell phone policies in other districts.

At the start of this school year, I met with the district’s principals and administrators to discuss my thoughts about our district cell phone policy.  I felt that cell phones are a part of daily life and that we need to find ways to embrace them in constructive ways. I also felt we needed to stop spending so much time trying to keep students from having them. After the meeting, the principals agreed to allow secondary students to have cell phones at school. They are not to use them during class, but there is no penalty for simply having a phone at school at Hattiesburg High or N.R. Burger.

The flip side of this is that these little handheld computers can now be put to use for instruction! At Hattiesburg High some of our teachers have taken the initiative and incorporated using cell phones into some of their lessons. Students can browse the web as part of an assignment and send in responses via texting, etc.

By taking the focus off cell phones, staff and administrators can focus on discipline issues that really matter. Students understand the policy and principals report that very few students have violated the new policy. This idea just seemed to make sense for our students in a technology-dependent society.

James Q. Bacchus

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