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Santa Barbara School District Reconsidering ‘No Cell Phones’ Policy

Proposed revisions include allowing high school students to use personal electronics inside and outside of the classroom

The Santa Barbara Unified School District is considering revising its policy for cell phones and other electronic usage on junior high and high school campuses.

Due to the difficulty of enforcing the strictly “no cell phones” policy on high school campuses, the district is considering moving to a policy where electronics can be used under teacher discretion in the classroom, but outside of class students will be permitted to use their technology without fear of it being confiscated.

The current cell phone policy states, “If a disruption occurs or a student uses any mobile communications device for improper activities, a school employee shall direct the student to turn off the device and/or shall confiscate it. If the school employee finds it necessary to confiscate the device, he/she shall return it at the end of the class period or school day. Continued violations will result in appropriate disciplinary action.”

The current cell phone policy set forth by the district states that students may use personal electronic devices, such as cell phones and iPads, in the classroom at the teacher’s discretion.

The proposed changes to the policy focus on personal electronics usage outside of the classroom.

“The board asked the principals of the schools for their recommendations on the policy, and the recommendation was to not enforce a blanket ban (regarding cell phone usage) outside of the classroom,” Dos Pueblos High School Assistant Principal Bill Woodard said.

The foremost reason for the proposed change in policy is due to the difficulty in consistently enforcing the current policy.

“Smartphones now are not only phones, but they are computers,” Woodard said. “And so students are wanting to use their smartphones and iPads during lunch and at other times to do their homework. But while one student is using their device for homework, one student may be texting.”

The proposal for the junior high schools is to keep the current model, which states that cell phones may be used under the teacher’s discretion during class, but may not be used at any other time during school hours.

The proposal for the high schools, however, is to follow the new model, which states that cell phones may be used under teacher’s discretion during class, but also allows for the use of cell phones outside of the classroom.

At the Dos Pueblos staff meeting Thursday, Jorge Fulco, assistant principal in charge of discipline, announced that the administration was not going to be confiscating cell phones outside of class for the new school year.

“My sense is that the staff will embrace this policy because they know that the old (policy) was hard to be consistent about,” Woodard said. “One thing I think we all agree on as teachers and as administrators is that if a policy is not enforced consistently, then there is resentment and inequity in how things are done.”

Due to the advancements in technology over recent years, it has become increasingly difficult for administrators and teachers to dismiss the benefits of using these tools for educational purposes. So rather than disregarding technology all together, Dos Pueblos teachers are focusing on educating students about the proper use of technology.

Testing security proves to be the toughest challenge regarding implementing the new policy.

During the mandated California STAR testing last spring, students in various parts of the state took pictures of portions of the test and uploaded those images on the Internet. This abuse of technology has delayed schools from receiving their test scores.

“This could be used as an important teaching moment for our students about what the proper use of technology is,” Woodard said. “And if we are in the education business, let’s teach our kids that there is a time and place for everything.”

The Board of Education is expected to address the issue in upcoming meetings, where trustees will vote on the proposed changes to the policy.

— Haley Peterson is a Dos Pueblos High School senior and editor in chief of the The Charger Account. Connect with The Charger Account on Facebook. Follow The Charger Account on Twitter: @ChargerAccount.

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