How Local Schools Handle Cell Phone Usage

Chrome books. Cell phones. Smart watches. Most of us seem to be plugged in twenty four hours a day. But there are times when it is important to unplug from all the technology.

Area schools have policies and guidelines in place for the use of technological devices, both for students and for teachers.

Emma Zielinski, an eighth grade student at Toledo School for the Arts, follows the school’s protocol when it comes to cell phone usage. Her experience is pretty typical for most local teens. As. “We can have cell phones out if we are not in class, but when we are in class, they have to be in our book bag or in a pocket,” she said. Zielinski adds that she has no problem with the policy, and she isn’t tempted to check her phone.

Taking a break from the screen

Local school districts have policies in place regarding technology usage, with guidelines clearly spelled out in student handbooks. As new technologies emerge, such as ChatGPT, the policies are explored,  re-examined and modified.

Cell Phone Usage

When it comes to cell phones, Sylvania Schools leaves some of those decisions up to the classroom teacher.  “Our policy does not allow students to have cell phones out while in class. However, the policy provides for teacher discretion (in certain situations). Cell phones are not collected throughout the day” Amy Addington, communications coordinator for Sylvania Schools, explained.

Addington believes that teachers support the limited usage for many reasons. “One junior high staff member said, ‘I feel strongly that taking a break from (mobile phones) during the school day is a net positive for children.’ Another teacher shared ‘By limiting the use of cell phones throughout the day, we have seen a reduction in the number of social media incidents that negatively impact the school day.”

No distractions, no disruptions

At Perrysburg Schools, policies are clearly spelled out in the student handbook. Electronic devices may be used before and after school, during after school activities and at school-related functions, as long as they do not create a distraction to others, disrupt the lessons or otherwise interfere with the educational environment.

High school students are given a bit more leeway, as they are permitted to use their devices on lunch breaks and between classes. However, ringers must be turned off at all times and students are not permitted to talk on their phones at that time. Headphones are also encouraged to keep devices inaudible during the school day. 

Approved educational devices may be used throughout the day. Other devices must be powered off completely and stored out of sight during class time. 

A graduated approach 

Maumee City Schools have adopted a graduated approach to cell phones and devices based on grade levels. 

Elementary students are not permitted to use cell phones or devices in the building during school hours, with the expectation that students have devices turned off and stored prior to entering the building. There may be times when teachers allow an electronic device to be used for educational purposes, but that is at the discretion of the staff. Students who do not follow this rule risk having their electronic devices confiscated. 

Middle school students must store their devices in their lockers, and may not use headphones or earbuds in classrooms or hallways. 

High school students are expected to place their cell phones in caddies hanging on the wall of each classroom. Cell phones are not permitted in bathrooms. Cell phone, headphones, and earbud usage in the classroom are permitted when allowed by the teacher. 

As a safeguard, all Maumee City School students are required to use Aruba Public wifi network. 

Protecting the educational environment

Toledo Public Schools (TPS) abides by regulations put in place by the school board, while allowing for some variations, depending on the needs of specific schools and classrooms.

“The board policy just wants to make sure that cell phones, and use of cell phones, whether it is students or staff, do not create a disruption to the educational environment,” Brian Murphy, Chief of Strategy and Organizational Development for Toledo Public Schools, said, adding, “In the district, whether it is elementary schools or high schools, students can use cell phones during their lunch, in the hallways between classes and before and after school. In the classroom, it’s really at the discretion of the teacher. Our regulation around that is that it still has to be used for educational purposes, and teachers have discretion in that (determination),” he said.

Some TPS classrooms and schools have begun collecting cell phones and putting them in “time out” during the school day.  “Every school has a different culture and a different climate,” Murphy said. “We do allow schools to do some other program or initiative. For example, we have an elementary school that collects all the cell phones when the kids walk into the door, and the kids do not have those cell phones returned until the end of the school day.”

Emma Zielinski is an eighth grade student at Toledo School for the Arts.

“As a district, we have been researching programs across the state and across the country. We are seeing some success, and we are having discussions about whether (holding of cell phones during the school day) is something we want to do moving forward as a school district,” Murphy said. “In some of our schools, we allow teachers, as long as they get approval from the administration, to (hold student phones),” he added. “We have one specific high school that has a lot of teachers doing that this year.”

Murphy said that teachers and staff try to encourage students to follow the regulations before a problem arises.  “We can confiscate the cell phone if it becomes an educational disruption. We know that almost all kids have cell phones, and sometimes the phones can be disruptive,” he said.

Toledo Public Schools continues to research other methods and policies regarding cell phones that could be implemented in future school years.

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