Atascadero High School has established a new cell phone policy starting in 2019 which restricts all cell phone usage on campus to non-class time. Students who disrupt classroom time with their phones or other electronic devices are subject to a series of disciplinary actions, including the confiscation of device. There are new procedures to follow for the first through fourth offenses, starting with a warning and ending with a student having to check in his or her phone all day while at school for up to three days until the behavior is corrected. The policy is listed in the Student Handbook, which is available on the high school’s website at www.atas.k12.ca.us/ausd/ahs.
The Positive Behavior Intervention Strategies (PBIS) committee originated the new policy in response to complaints by students and staff and the inconsistent way that the existing policy was being enforced. The committee is a campus organization that discusses the welfare of students and works to improve high school culture. In 2018, the PBIS committee advocated for this new policy, which addresses widespread concerns about cell phone usage during school hours. Numerous students have felt intimidated and uncomfortable when presenting or speaking because they did not want their peers to record or take pictures of them, according to members of the Student Advisory Council, a component of the PBIS Committee. Ms. Medina, the chairperson of the PBIS Committee, and the students participating in the advisory council advocated for this policy to be enforced at the beginning of the new calendar year rather than waiting until the next school year. During the roll out in early January, high school administrators made several announcements during the morning announcements explaining that not using cell phones in class is about respect and courtesy for classmates and teachers.
Staff and students have a range of responses to the implementation, but the reaction to the new policy has been mostly positive. Ms. Proulx, the Wellness Center Coordinator, predicts the new policy will be an adjustment for everyone and will take some time. She added that one challenge will be to have parents only text or call their students during break or lunch. “I'm trying to be a role model for others by only accessing my phone if there is an emergency message. I think we will be successful and will benefit from this lack of distraction,” she said. Similarly, English teacher Ms. Corey thinks the new policy is great and will succeed if all teachers implement it without exceptions, which she also thinks will be difficult. “It's a shame that we can't say that you may only use cell phones when useful in class. But, alas, a student’s definition of useful might vary wildly from mine. Also, there are some students who would just use it no matter what. I predict that the first few weeks will be rocky as students deal with their cell phone addiction issues. But, once they get used to it, and realize that life does continue if they don't check their phone all class period, then I actually think it will be fine.”
Freshman Linda Perez-Flores disagreed with previous statements by stating, “I honestly don’t think we should have the policy. It’s not necessary because they say respect your peers, respect your teachers, but we weren’t disrespecting teachers or people in the first place. I don’t think it affected much in class.” However, senior Claire Livengood believes the new policy has potential. “The issue that a lot of students have to face is a change in their entire educational environment. Although this rule has always been in effect, it has never been enforced, except for in some specific classrooms,” Livengood said. “Therefore the idea that this policy is new is false. Since high school is a preparation for college, creating useful study and lecture habits is essential.” Livengood thinks that banning cell phones will help students develop those skills.
After the first month of implementation, there have only been ____ students who have been suffered the consequences for for reaching the fourth offense. The hope is that by all teachers, not just a few, consistently enforcing the new policy, even during Study Hall, that students are encouraged to show respect for not only their teachers, but fellow students as well. The benefits of not using cell phones also include students learning to be more verbally social instead of deferring to an electronic device for communication.