- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 9, 2016

JEFFERSONVILLE, Ind. (AP) - Martin Ojeda picked up his phone and talked to a friend about some forms he needed to pick up. They figured out a plan of action, then he hung up.

He had a class to catch.

Ojeda, a junior at Jeffersonville High School, has a lot of free rein on how and when he can use a cellphone during the school day. Each district has its own set of guidelines, but largely, they’re easing up on restrictions.

“I’m glad they trust us,” Ojeda said. “I feel like their policy of not using phones all the time, especially during class, is fair.”

At Greater Clark County Schools, assistant superintendent of secondary education Steve Griffin said cellphones are more of a norm than ever before. He said since the idea of high school is to prepare students for adulthood, the district’s policies aim for treating them more like adults when it comes to their phones.

“When you get into high school, we’re trying to prepare them for life,” Griffin said. “We don’t want to be hypocritical by saying we’re getting them ready to be adults, but they have to keep their phones in the locker.”

At the high school level, he said they allow students to keep their cellphones on them at all times. Teachers have the authority to tell students to put them away, or keep them face down on a desk, but they don’t have to keep phones out of reach.

Once class change begins, or they’re headed in for lunch, they can call or text with no issue.

Griffin said he thinks the more students are treated like adults, the more they’ll strive to act like adults in class, whether that means contributing to class or otherwise.

“I think first of all, they appreciate the fact that they’re being treated like a responsible young adult,” Griffin said. “No matter where you are in the region, our students are pretty responsible kids. I think they appreciate the fact that they’re being treated as such. I think a byproduct is that they’ll work even harder for you as an adult or a teacher in that school because you trust them.”

The New Albany-Floyd County Consolidated School Corp. takes a similar stance on cellphone use. While students in both districts have restrictions on what kind of web browsing they’re allowed, Louis Jensen, director of high schools, said they still entrust their students with responsible use.

“The high school’s a little more understanding that’s cell phones are part of the life of a student,” Jensen said. “During the day, you’ll see students with their phones out during lunch and in class, we tell them they shouldn’t have their phone out during class.”

Like Greater Clark, he said they’re a little more restrictive on middle school students on how they use cellphones, but generally, they’re not required to leave them at home or locked up somewhere on campus.

Clarksville Community Schools also gives students pretty open usage of cellphones, though they generally don’t allow students to keep them out during class. Nikolette Langdon, information specialist at the district, said they try to embrace the devices as part of what comes with today’s students.

“Virtually every student has a cellphone,” Langdon said. “Back in the days when I was in school, that wasn’t necessarily the case. Cellphones are everywhere and they’re going to be everywhere no matter what. If you give them time during passing periods and use, that’s going to prevent use during academic times.”

She said depending on which high school students attend in the district - Clarksville High School or Renaissance Academy - students may use phones in designated areas of the schools. Like the other districts, she said teachers may use the phone as a tool, in place of a calculator or otherwise.

But many schools that have moved to a 1:1 computing model, which puts computers in the hands of every student, may not use phones that way. New Albany-Floyd County Schools use iPads in high school, Greater Clark puts Google Chromebooks in the hands of every student and Renaissance Academy also gives computers to students. Teachers may still call on students to use certain apps, but those devices have largely replaced the role phones may play in the classroom.

Griffin said, however, if a student left their Chromebook at home, they might use some features of their phone to fill the gap until the following day, dependent on teacher approval.

West Clark Community Schools takes a more cautious approach to cell phone usage in school. John Reed, assistant superintendent, said the district follows generalized school policy - which it’s about to finalize - to avoid any legal repercussions that could come from cell phone usage. Generally, students aren’t allowed to use phones during the day unless teachers want to use it for an academic purpose that’s been signed off on by a principal.

Otherwise, they stay out of sight and out of mind.

“I think the overall attitude toward technology is that it’s to be a tool for education, that’s its sole purpose in a school setting,” Reed said. “Technology shouldn’t be driving education, education should drive technology.”

He also said like the other districts, West Clark takes a firm stance on what happens if a student uses a phone to bully a student through social networking or if students engage in sexting. Those offenses are punishable all the way up to expulsion, Reed said.

He said the board’s close to voting on the final version of the policy, but they’re trying to make sure students are safe and learning.

“We’re saying that this is a technology that can be misused and we are trying to develop a policy that covers every aspect of it,” Reed said. “We allow students to use a cellphone on a bus after school to contact mom and dad, let them know what’s going on and whatnot, but it’s not be used for any kind of harassment.”

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Source: News and Tribune, https://bit.ly/2b0MXKC

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