Cell Phone Ban in Schools

Connexeo - 08/27/2018

The issue of cell phones in classrooms received renewed attention in late August when the Kewaskum School District in Wisconsin petitioned officials to pass a new ordinance that would allow high school officials to issue a municipal citation to students misusing a cell phone on school property.

Call it “Tickets for Texting.”

Several other Wisconsin towns had similar laws in place and reported that they worked, according to an article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The issue, however, became moot when the Kewaskum school board voted unanimously to stop pursuing the matter.

Had Kewaskum’s ticketing proposal passed, it would have gone against the overall nationwide trend that has seen more lax restrictions in cell phone use in schools over the past several years. Some 66% of K-12 schools prohibited cell phone use during the 2015-16 school year, the latest for which complete data was available, compared to almost 91% in 2009-10, according to National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) numbers.

New York City schools lifted its total ban on cell phones in 2015, leaving decisions on restrictions up to the individual schools. Other districts allow phones in all schools – with, of course, restrictions on distracting use, while some schools are implementing new bans. In fact, France has banned cell phone use in all of its schools, fulfilling one of President Emmanuel Macron’s campaign promises.

Just because the rules against using the smartphones are loosening doesn’t mean students have complete freedom with them. For example, social media prohibitions dropped only four percentage points, from 93% in 2009-2010 to 89% in 2015-16. Instead, the overall relaxation in cell phone restrictions in schools is the result of two factors:

  • Parents wanting to be able to contact their children quickly.
  • The increased functionality of smartphones and their usefulness in the classroom.

The process was – and still is in many cases – that if a parent absolutely had to communicate with their children at a moment’s notice, they would call the school office. A staff member would forward the call to the classroom, and the chain would go on.

But as children are getting phones at younger ages – even at age 10 or younger – school systems are increasingly powerless to stop the wave. Add to that increased parental concern about school safety, and the ability to connect with their kids quickly becomes crucial, according to a Gizmodo article.

The other factor is that smartphones are pretty powerful computers. A study quoted in a National Education Summit article states that 90.7% of students use their mobile phones for school work. A Christian Science Monitor article stated that students could use a dictionary app for English class or Google Translate for foreign language. And, of course, the calculator app can replace that old calculator.

Obviously, teachers, staff and administrators aren’t restricted in their cell phone use at school, except by the parameters of their jobs. And, in fact, in some instances smartphones can even help them with those jobs. Teachers can use apps to help them grade papers, keep records and log attendance. For example, Connexeo’s school payment software is mobile, and facilitates record-keeping on the go.

The debate on cell phones in classes will continue, and despite the decline in the percentage of schools with outright bans on the devices, a majority of campuses still prohibit them.

But only a few Wisconsin districts are issuing “Tickets for Texting.”

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