New cell phone rule gets ringing endorsement

Guess what, Fairmont? You can use your cell phone at school. This year marked the official start of the new cell phone policy allowing students to use their cell phones at lunch and between classes.

Last May, former principal Dr. James J. Schoenlein piloted the new cell phone policy to see if there would be any unforeseen problems with the new rule. The cell phone rule up to that point required cell phones to be put away from 7:50 a.m. to 3:05 p.m. The trial didn’t pose any major problems, and the administration decided to go ahead and loosen the cell phone policy. Now cell phones, iPods and other electronic devices can be used between classes and at lunch, but not during instructional class time.  

So far, so good …

Dan VonHandorf, who replaced Schoenlein as principal when Schoenlein became superintendent, is happy with the rule change so far. “This is an overall positive change, and it is going a lot better than we hoped,” he said. “The students are showing that they are responsible enough to handle the change.”

The new cell phone policy doesn’t appear to have created an upsurge of disruptive behavior from students. “The number of students using their cell phones in the classroom has not gotten worse, according to teacher feedback,” VonHandorf said. 

English teacher Patricia Taylor believes there are positive aspects to the new cell phone policy as well. “It is good in the sense that it gives students more responsibility,” she said. “On the first day of school, I stated what my policy was, and I have not encountered any problems yet.”

Taylor still has a few concerns, though. “It could be a problem if students stop interacting with other students,” said Taylor. “But now that they are almost adults, they need to learn how to balance it.”   

VonHandorf still has a few concerns about the new cell phone policy as well. “One of the areas of concern is lunchtime. Some students are at lunch while others are in class, so instructional periods may be interrupted.”

Students give new rule a ‘thumbs up’

Senior Katy Coe agrees with the change in cell phone rules. “I think you should be able to call and text your friends in between classes,” she said.

Freshman Katie Dickens is aware of the new cell phone policy and also likes the change. “I think it is better because my parents know what is going on, and I have a chance to call them in the middle of the day if I need to,” said Dickens. “I think this change is better for communication between friends and parents.”

But Dickens also believes there are some negative aspects of the new rule. “Cell phones can be distracting in the hallways, and there will always be those students who still use their cell phones in class.”

Coe thinks that the consequences of being caught using a cell phone inappropriately should be more severe because the rules have been loosened. “If students do get to use their cell phones during the school day, the rules should be harsher – especially because there are going to be people who take advantage of the freedom and do inappropriate things with their cell phones, like sexting and harassing others,” she said.

VonHandorf says that if a teacher does catch a student with a cell phone during class time, then the teacher will talk to the student and write an office referral and the unit principal will handle it. The first offense for using a cell phone during an inappropriate time will result in a Saturday school, and then the principals will follow the steps after that.

VanHandorf thinks this new cell phone policy will continue to be successful. “By allowing our students the privilege to use technology more, I believe there will be fewer classroom disruptions.”