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Cell phones in school can be a hang-up
August 13, 2015 Jerry Purvis   

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With the explosive use of cell phones in all areas of society, they can sometimes be a disruption, especially in learning environments. So the best remedy is to address the issue before it becomes a larger problem.

Gering Schools Superintendent Bob Hastings said the district’s policy at the high school allows for cell phones to be used before and after school, at lunchtime and between periods. They’re not allowed in the classroom setting unless the teacher is using them as a teaching device. Because there are more opportunities for learning experiences with cell phones, the district first considers the educational component.
“Most kids in the junior high also have cell phones,” Hastings said. “But at that level, kids can’t use them between classes, just before and after school. At the elementary level, we tell kids not to bring their cell phones to school unless there’s a very specific reason they need to.”

He added that students in the district primarily use their phones for texting, not receiving calls. “My kids will usually only call me or my wife,” he said, “but they text everybody.”

Gering’s cell phone usage policy is pretty much consistent with school districts across the state. They were developed because the districts saw a need to address it as cell phones became more and more prevalent among not just students, but teachers and staff as well.

Hastings said Gering teachers implement a variety of methods to regulate phone usage. Sometimes students are required to place their phones face down on the corner of their desks so the teacher can always see them. Others have students leave their phones in a box or pocket folders at the front of the class.

From a student’s viewpoint, problems still exist with cell phone usage in school. “Not many teachers make us put them away,” incoming senior McKenna Copsey said. “We’re supposed to put our phones in a box when we come into class. That lasts for about a week, then kids just keep them in their pockets or backpacks.”

She also said kids will try to text their friends secretly. “Some teachers don’t care as long as the kids are kind of paying attention. After a while, it just becomes part of the class.”

Gering High School social studies teacher Jason DeMaranville said he doesn’t have much of a problem with cell phone usage in his class. “Of course I don’t let the kids use them because it can be distracting. Most often, kids use their phones for texting.”

DeMaranville’s policy is simple – all cell phones much be put away in class, either in a backpack or pocket. “It takes a couple of weeks for the kids to realize I’m serious about it,” he said. “If the kids have their phones out, they get confiscated. The kids are there to take the class, not text each other.”

Superintendent Hastings admits that kids are creative and they’re going to try to find ways to access their devices during class time. And when it becomes a problem, the district addresses it on an individual basis.

He also encourages parents to not call or text their children during school hours. If there’s an emergency, parents can call the office and get a message to them.

“If there’s a cell phone violation, it will be taken and the student or parent can pick it up after school,” Hastings said. “Continued violations could lead to detention or in-school suspension. It’s important for parents to talk with their kids about the guidelines in the student handbook so everyone understands the policy before school starts.”

He said there isn’t a cell phone crisis in the district, but there will probably always be problems that pop up from time to time. “We have great teachers and great students in our district. They work together to try to figure out how to make the policy work.”
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