Rhode Island so often finds itself following in the footsteps of other states (hi, Massachusetts) when it comes to passing policy. We see no reason why Rhode Island cannot become a nationwide leader …
Rhode Island so often finds itself following in the footsteps of other states (hi, Massachusetts) when it comes to passing policy. We see no reason why Rhode Island cannot become a nationwide leader in dealing with a problem faced by every state across America — cell phone use in schools.
While over 75% of school districts across the nation have some type of policy preventing the use of cell phones during school hours, there is not one state that has gone that one crucial step further to legislate this issue from the highest level of local government; and we fail to understand why that is.
There’s no debate regarding how distractive cell phones in class can be. They are enough of a distraction for fully grown adults, never mind the degree of distraction they cause for teenagers with blossoming social lives, exploding brain chemistry and still-developing attention spans.
There is nothing preventing the writing of a state law — crafted with the support and input from school administrators and a large committee of teachers and parents — that would once and for all provide a straightforward policy on to how to keep kids off their devices during the school day.
So far, the only argument against outright banning phones from school that we’ve seen that seems worthy of some consideration is in regards to student safety and being able to communicate with parents in the event of an emergency. Particularly in today’s climate, there should always be multiple layers of contingency to ensure that in the instance of a true emergency — be it a shooting, a fire, or anything — that the authorities can be promptly notified.
However, we would argue that if the only means of effectively ensuring communicating an emergency is through the use of students’ cell phones, the adults have surely fallen short in their responsibilities. Surely, there are solutions that don’t rely on students reporting their own crises. In many cases, a resource officer will be able to alert police or fire personnel faster than any student can text or call. Parents might feel safer being able to contact their child at a moment’s notice, but the trade-off for that reassurance is an overall negative impact on their overall learning environment.
Rhode Island should tackle this problem from the top, instead of relying on districts individually to figure it out on their own. Without a statewide policy to fall back on that is applied consistently to each school district, teachers and principals in individual school buildings are burdened with policing their use in schools, wasting their time as well as the students’.
And although the outcry among students will likely be severe, and considered an affront to their rights as human beings — understandable, considering how many of today’s youth have had a device stuck in front of them by their parents earlier in their life than they can even remember — they might actually be surprised to find that being forced to relinquish that device for eight hours a day is actually somewhat freeing. You can’t miss out on something if everyone else is missing out on it, too.
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