HomeCampusAmbiguous cell phone guidelines lead to differing methods of regulation on campus

Ambiguous cell phone guidelines lead to differing methods of regulation on campus

Published April 4, 2024

BY NICOLE MIRSKI

With school districts all over the country banning cell phones during school hours, Carmel High School’s relaxed policy allows teachers to make their own decisions when it comes to phone usage in their classrooms.

“Cell phones can be disruptive to classroom instruction,” reads the 2021-22 CHS student handbook. “It is up to teacher discretion as to whether or not cell phones can be used, and to what degree, in each class. Students may use cell phones during non-class time. The CHS staff shall confiscate cell phones from students being used at inappropriate times.”

Although there are no plans to change this rule, some staff members have expressed concerns about the increased usage of cell phones by students during class time.

“I would prefer each teacher to make their own rules because it depends on what class you’re in,” says CHS principal Libby Duethman. “But if I was a high school teacher today, I would be having no cell phones…. Some classrooms have a rule that you can’t bring a phone to the bathroom which is important. I do notice that when kids leave the classroom they are immediately on their phones the whole way to the bathroom and the whole way back from the bathroom.”

Because of California’s Ed. Code, section 48901.7, each school district has the right to determine their own policies when it comes to phones on campus. However, this isn’t the case in many other states. For example, in May, Florida was the first state to create legislation that took cell phones out of the classroom during teacher instruction. Orange County Public Schools in Florida took it a step further, banning all wireless communication devices throughout the duration of the school day, including breaks and lunches.

In Utah this January, Gov. Spencer Cox has pushed for schools to restrict access to cell phones during class time on the basis that social media is distracting and harmful to teenagers, with some schools in the state even banning phones altogether during school hours. 

Specifically on the CHS campus, there are multiple ways teachers have dealt with cell phones in their classrooms, which can lead to some confusion by students who have up to seven classes a day, all with different rules and regulations.

“It would be nice if teachers had a standardized [cell phone policy],” says junior Millie Aldi, who acknowledges that many teachers use phone pocket charts, hanging devices that keep cell phones in a designated place throughout the class period. “I leave my phone in the pockets so often because each class is different.”

Many teachers, including English teacher Carli Barnett and Chinese instructor Joyce Liu, have students will place their devices in pocket charts at the start of each class period because of the distraction they could cause in class.

“I have students put their phones up every day because they can’t multitask, especially in French,” says French teacher Suzanne Marden. “It’s very hard to listen to English music, text your friends, talk to your mom or whatever they’re doing, and then also understand French at the same time.”

Some teachers have even implemented phone holders out of requests by students. Dale DePalatis, an English teacher, says that he enforced the daily use of phone pockets after students came to him with concerns about their screen usage, especially after online learning during the pandemic. 

While some teachers set a common rule of cell phone pockets throughout all their classes, others have decided that the responsibility of learning and dedication should fall on students. Math teacher Juan Gomez, for instance, allows students to have phones on them as long as they don’t prove a distraction. He believes that communication and self-regulation are important life skills to learn in the classroom. 

Multiple other teachers, like science teachers Tom Dooner and Don Freitas, implement a similar system in their classrooms.

“If I’m giving instruction, I ask students to put their phones away,” says Freitas. “But if students are working on an assignment, then I allow them to use it at their discretion. I do this because I have mostly juniors, and as juniors they should be able to self-regulate. I do have to remind students [to put their phones away] when I’m talking, but they usually do so at the first ask.”

Students have noticed that the trend is that Advanced Placement or honors classes tend to allow their students to allocate their cell phone usage by themselves.

“The most effective method I have seen for my [college prep] classes is putting phones in the holder,” says sophomore Carson Varney. “The current policy is working. It is a good thing if teachers trust us to have our phones and use our class time responsibly.”

Even though more states, such as Oklahoma, Vermont and Kansas, are cracking down on school district rules, Carmel Unified School District does not have a standard set of regulations when it comes to the use of cellular devices on campus, as shown by the differing rules throughout the district’s schools.

“Our cell phone policy is pretty straightforward and simple,” says Carmel Middle School principal Daniel Morgan. “At CMS, cell phones should be turned off and put away prior to the beginning of the first class. They should be kept out of sight for the duration of the school day and may be used as soon as the school day ends.”

Lily Stenvick

Similarly, Carmel River Elementary School and Tularcitos Elementary School each have policies allowing cell phones to be brought to school if they are kept out of sight. Another elementary school, Captain Cooper in Big Sur, recommends that wireless devices not be brought at all.

“Leave toys, cell phones, and other electronic devices at home,” states the Captain Cooper School handbook.

More teachers have been switching to contained phone pockets over the past couple of years because of the increased usage by students. Liu started having her students place their phones in a cubby majority of the days this year and has noticed a positive change in student’s attitudes and

Orla Cook

dedication to learning.

What is the Best Phone Policy?

Freshman Lily Stenvick

“The phone holders on the wall, while no one likes them, are super effective.”

Junior Orla Cook

“It depends on the teacher and what type of class you’re walking into. If you’re walking into an AP class, it’s generally a rule that phones shouldn’t be used because they cause a distraction. It just

Quinn Weisenfeld

depends on the students and the lessons being taught.” 

Senior Quinn Weisenfeld

“I really only have one teacher who has the designated phone pockets.”

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