Student Cell Phone Use Policies Changing

By Greg Howard – April 18, 2013

Student Cell Phone PoliciesWe recently produced a case study on how administrators in the Warren County R-III School District in Missouri used the CyberBully Hotline to reduce student fighting. In our interviews with Warren County administrators, we were interested to hear that district policy was recently changed to allow for in-school use of cell phones by students. The change in their cell phone use policy reflects a national trend that has implications for both education and school discipline.

Previously, Warren County restricted student cell phone use. At the end of the 2011-12 school year, however, the policy was changed to allow for student use of cell phones in school.

Administrators said that the change was driven by the realization that cell phones are a 21st century tool that could be used for educational purposes. When weighing the school cell phone ban pros and cons, Warren County leaders decided that the benefits of allowing phones in school outweighed the potential pitfalls a policy change might cause.

To be sure, Warren County’s new policy doesn’t allow for inappropriate use of cell phones by students. Today, Warren County students are allowed to use cell phones in class for educational activities, during passing periods in between classes, and during lunch. Otherwise, cell phones must be put away so students can properly focus on their coursework.

Warren County administrators say that students enjoy using their cell phones in school, and they are pleased with the results of the change in policy. Notably, administrators also cited the change in policy as one of the reasons why the CyberBully Hotline has helped them successfully address student fighting and horseplay.

As we noted in our school fighting case study, Warren County administrators successfully convinced students that the CyberBully Hotline is safe and anonymous. They pointed out that most students have cell phones today, and noted that since the change in policy allowed them to use their phones openly at designated times, it would be impossible for a student’s peers to know who they were texting.

The anonymity of the CyberBully Hotline and the presence of cell phones on campus give students the freedom to report their problems and concerns. Students let administrators know when they believe that classmates are on the verge of fighting. They alert school leaders when they see things that are suspicious or dangerous, such as weapons brought on campus. These kinds of reports may not have been made if students didn’t have the means to make reports anonymously.

As schools and districts reconsider the pros and cons of student cell phone bans, we urge them to look at the changes that Warren County has made. Thanks to their revised student cell phone use policy and the CyberBully Hotline, Warren County administrators have opened up a new channel for student feedback – feedback that is stopping school violence and bad behavior before it starts.

Click here to learn more about the CyberBully Hotline.

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