TheTimesTribune.com, Corbin, KY

Editorials

October 18, 2013

Students should not have cell phones at school

CORBIN — I think I’ve officially crossed the threshold into middle-aged.

That has to be the answer, because otherwise I would find it easier to understand why there is an apparent ongoing debate over electronic devices in the schools.

During a recent school board meeting, it was learned that in determining school policies and procedures, a friendly debate was occurring with staff members.

And the debate centered around those aforementioned electronic devices — specifically, cell phones.

So as I listened to the problem, I had to chuckle.

While I completely understand in today’s society cell phones have come to be considered a necessity, I cannot figure out why the question of cell phones in school has such a tough answer.

I myself “never leave home without it.”

The biggest problem I gleaned from the discussion Tuesday was the mixed signals sent by teaching staff when it came to cell phone usage on campus.

Some teachers were apparently against students having them and would confiscate them when seen.

Other teachers simply looked the other way.

It wasn’t clear to me whether the cell phone was the absolute center of the electronic device rule and subsequent debate — it has been spoken in past meetings that iPads, Notebooks and other related devices are beneficial as learning tools for students.

But the discussion during the meeting centered on cell phones themselves.

Call me old-fashioned, old-school, or whatever age-related cutdown you want to throw — but I think the easiest solution is no students’ phones on campus, period.

Students needing to contact family in emergency or other matters likely have access to “landline” phones in the office, and that should be the end of it.

They also have more than 12 hours a day off campus and out of school to play with their cell phones.

But allowing these phones on campus could invite a world of problems that were never spoken about Tuesday.

I came from an era when hand-held electronic games were all the rage, and school teachers and administrators battled the same basic battle — to allow the games or not to allow the games.

Of course, the answer then was none of those on school grounds, ever.

When the Internet was in its infancy of becoming all the rage, my mother was in the process of raising my youngest sister, who was in high school.

At that time, my mother also owned and operated her own business.

One day a customer came in and was discussing with my mother an issue she was having with one of her children and the Internet.

I’m not sure what that issue was now.

But if I’m remembering the story correctly, and I know I’m pretty close, I think she was sort of asking my mother for advice on the subject.

Whatever the case, my mother had a simple answer for it — there was no Internet at the house.

End of story — no muss, no fuss, no problem, and best of all, no bill.

So again, I reiterate that the simple solution is banning the devices on school property — no phones, no problems.

Besides the obvious temptation of carrying a cell phone, there are other issues that could arise.

We’ve all likely heard of at least one case of “cyberbullying,” and from what I understand, that includes the cell phone.

We’ve also heard of some of those tragic, final results.

We don’t want to think it happens, but it does — despite the rules. Teachers cannot legally be in every place the students must go on campus.

With all that is expected of students in the learning process, I agree with allowing access to devices that accentuate the learning environment. When I learned typing, I certainly couldn’t have done it without the necessary typewriter. Students learning in the computer age certainly need the tools with which they can learn.

But I think the question of cell phone usage should be easy to answer. We want our students to achieve to their highest potential.

Therefore let’s eliminate the chance of distractions, from Internet cruising, to texting, to picture taking, to, of course, game playing.

There will be someone who touts their benefits in a serious emergency situation, such as an armed suspect in the school, and I see and understand that side.

So the solution for that would be a cell phone in every classroom, with 9-1-1 access only, so in that type of situation there will be a way for students to contact emergency personnel.

Teachers should also be permitted to carry cell phones, again for emergency purposes only, and when they are on campus they need to be on silent mode.

So have I crossed into middle age with this type of thinking? Maybe — remember, I grew up in the time when a rotary telephone still worked and you had to wait until after school to use the phone to chat with friends.

After realizing that last sentence, I’m off to find a cane and a good rocking chair now.

John Ross can be reached at jross@thetimestribune.com

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