Schools differ on cellphone policies for students

Student cellphone use in class is gaining acceptance in some high schools, while others still ban use of phones. But a survey of more than two dozen local schools showed the vast majority still require teens to have a teacher’s approval.

A Pew Research Center study published last year shows that 95 percent of teens have or have access to a smartphone, and 45 percent of teens say they are online on a near-constant basis. Greene County Career Center spokesman Ron Bolender said it’s important for students to learn how to appropriately access their devices.

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“Students are able to carry cellphones with them during the school day,” Bolender said of GCCC policy. “Teachers set their own policies in the classrooms based on what they are doing. … Our rationale is students need to learn to use these responsibly when they are working, so we give them some freedom here to learn that responsibility.”

Yellow Springs and Covington schools are among the districts that echoed the Career Center’s approach, calling cellphones tools that students will need to use and manage in college and in their careers.

A majority of schools that responded to a Dayton Daily News question said their high schoolers are allowed to use their phones at lunch and between classes, although some have rules against headphones in the hallways for safety reasons.

Other schools take a different approach. Carroll High School officials said students are not allowed to use cellphones during school hours at all, while Dayton Public Schools and the Warren County Career Center said phones must be put away completely during class.

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Cedar Cliff Superintendent Chad Mason said teachers can allow students to use their phones in class for an educational purpose, but that’s rare.

“Students are on the phone plenty of time; we do not need to have that usage here,” Mason said. “It’s good for students to get a break from them and focus on learning.”

Northmont schools’ cellphone policy says if students have the teacher’s permission, they can use their phones for taking notes or recording a class lecture. But the policy notes a downside as well.

“Often the possession and use of such equipment or devices by students at school can have the effect of distracting, disrupting and/or intimidating others in the school environment and leading to opportunities for academic dishonesty and other disruptions of the educational process,” Northmont’s policy says.

Some Fairmont High School seniors said phones are helpful, while others said they can be distracting.

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“I think (phones) are really helpful because there are certain things in the classroom that we have to use them for, like various games or quizzes, where it’s actually part of the participation in the class,” Fairmont senior Keri Stout said.

Popular education apps such as Kahoot and Quizlet are often utilized by teachers in class. Kahoot, a quizzing game that requires students to use their devices to answer questions, says it is now used by 50% of all kindergarten through 12th-grade students.

“If you’re very good with time management, you know when you have to get stuff done,” Fairmont senior Jacob Slomko said. “But I will admit (using your phone in school) can lead to some procrastination.”

Sometimes parents are the ones who contribute to students violating cellphone policies, by texting or messaging their children about school or other issues during school hours. Several local schools state in their policy that parents needing to reach their children at school should call the office rather than text directly.

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New Lebanon Superintendent Greg Williams says Dixie High School’s flexible phone policy is aimed at creating more responsible cellphone usage in the future.

“Students are allowed to use their cellphones in the hallways and during lunch,” Williams said. “Responsibility is one of our core values at Dixie Schools. Students need to learn to be responsible with their electronics as they enter the workforce and we provide an environment where they can practice that responsibility.”

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