I remain amazed how often I see groups of kids sitting around on their cellphones. Even when they have actual human beings sitting across from them at the Dairy Queen or the Starbucks, they are engrossed in their phones. And the worse offenders are the kids with iPhones, who apparently have no reason to ever look up from their screens.
So, I have mixed reactions to Atlanta’s decision to allow all students to bring cellphones to school.
There is nothing mixed about the position of the Atlanta Federation of Teachers, which issued this formal statement:
Whereas, we understand that the superintendent may be charged with constructing a regulation in regards to APS’ existing cell phone policy, the AFT is requesting that the Atlanta School Board disallow cell phones on school grounds and within school buildings by students. (Change the existing policy.)
As we continue to hear from and interface with APS instructional staff, we have gained a greater comprehension and appreciation of their opinions and experiences as to the safety and instructional problems that students’ cell phone possession poses.
As per the “Use of Electronic Devices by Students” Descriptor Code: JCDAF-R (O), the problem with this policy is implementation and “enforcement.” Our administrators and teachers are already overrun with consequential discipline paperwork and burdened with discipline problems each day. This is not a reflection upon their abilities or inabilities to manage their work environments. Contrary, it is indicative of the district’s neglected attention to mounting discipline problems.
We ask you to help unburden teachers and administrators so that they can carry out their prime directive… “Educate the Children.” Therefore, it is reasonable to disallow cell phone possession on school grounds and within school buildings by all students.
What does data tell us about student possession of cell phones’ ability to deter an unsafe environment or secure a safe one? And if safety and quality instruction are the goals, what does the data state about student cell phone possession to achieve each?
My twins don’t bring cellphones to their middle school unless they’re staying after and have to call me for a ride. (The school office is not open after 4:30 so there are no options if students have to call parents beyond that time.) They tell me that kids occasionally text during class, although there are some classes where it occurs more often.
A private school teacher who tried incorporating cellphones into her middle school classes told me the project fell apart because of texting. She spent too much time policing the phones. She also said that she had problems with kids losing their phones or having them stolen. She said she cannot imagine the challenges of allowing even elementary school students to bring cellphones to class.
But that is what Atlanta will now permit under a policy shift announced today:
Deputy Superintendent Karen Waldon told principals that elementary and middle school students will be allowed to bring cellphones to school if they have written permission from their parents and keep them turned off during the school day, Atlanta Public Schools spokesman Stephen Alford said on Tuesday. High school students already have cellphone privileges.
Atlanta Board of Education members wanted to relax cellphone restrictions following last month’s shooting at Grady High School, when parents called their children to make sure they were unharmed. A 17-year-old girl shot herself in the leg Feb. 27, and no one else was injured.
Verdaillia Turner, president of the Atlanta Federation of Teachers, said adding more cellphones to schools creates another disciplinary burden on teachers. It’s a major distraction and it’s one more thing we’ll have to deal with as teachers that prevents us from doing our job of providing an education,” Turner said.
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog