Children are using cellphones regularly at younger ages these days, especially in middle school. Requiring students to leave their phones at home is not the answer for every school, however. iStock photo

EDITORIAL: Schools’ cellphone policy part of the learning process

Learning appropriate and respectful phone at school makes sense

News of an upcoming student cellphone ban at a Victoria middle school has prompted parents and others to speak out on both sides of the issue.

Before judging it as an unfair decision, consider it was not made unilaterally by the principal, the school district or any small group of people. It was a decision reached through discussions among the entire staff at Central middle school, and was a reaction to the ongoing difficulties teachers have with distracting and harmful misuse of cellphones by students.

There’s no indication at this point that any similar bans are on the horizon in the Sooke School District. Nonetheless, questioning whether the positive value of having cellphones available for educational purposes for young students outweighs any distracting or harmful usage is an exercise all schools can and should undertake.

In the majority of middle schools, staff and administrators have already had this conversation and determined it’s ultimately up to teachers to set ground rules in their classrooms – some place a container for phones at the front of the room. Since teachers are individuals and have varied skill at setting firm boundaries, however, it can sometimes leave the door open for youth to show open disregard for the rules.

Each school is different. Some suffer from an underlying culture of disrespect by students, not just regarding phone use, but in general. Such behaviour can be the result of undisciplined home or school life, or other issues.

By high school, the onus is on students to show respect. The code of conduct for Royal Bay and Belmont secondaries requires students to “respect the appropriate use of school computers, internet access and cellphone use while in class.” That means no disrupting the learning environment of other students or, more broadly, using electronic means to bully, harass or otherwise abuse others.

A blanket policy may not be the way to go, as many working parents have routines whereby they call their children or the kids call them at pre-arranged times after school to ensure their safety. And the majority of children will abide by rules at school, if given them firmly.

Central’s ban was not taken lightly and was seen as a last resort to rein in a problem that has been growing for years. While other schools may not follow their lead, they need to acknowledge that in the age of technology, teaching kids responsible and appropriate cell phone use has essentially become a part of the curriculum.