High School Cell Phone Policies Differ in WNY

Some allow phones in certain areas, others away for the day

Tom Puckett
August 22, 2019 - 4:00 am

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Buffalo, NY (WBEN) As the school year draws near, parents and students alike are learning about cell phone policies. Can a student have their cell phone with them during the school day?  When and how can they use it?

From district to district, the rules vary widely.

Niagara Falls introduced a policy of red zone/green zone for cell phone use for a couple of years. "We continue to maintain the certain red zones where students cannot have their phones out. Those are primarily areas where there's instruction and group work going on," says Superintendent Mark Laurrie. "There are also green zones, like the cafeteria and the school bus, where there are no restrictions." Laurrie says cell phones are not going to go away. "We as a school district need not to try to fix this social problem, but rather work within it, so we have those designated zones," says Laurrie.

Laurrie says there are still instances where the policy is violated. "We still have teachers and administrators reminding students of the zone they're in. What it has done is it's cut down on the disciplinary referrals and the discussion we have to have with students on cell phones themselves," explains Laurrie. "I'm not saying it's perfect, but as the year goes on with good rituals, good practice, clear expectations, students get into a good understanding of it, and the conversations we've had to have about serious cell phone matters are becoming few and far between." 

Laurrie notes there's a punishment policy for violations. For the first offense, the phone is taken away, the second time a parent has to pick up, and on the third offense, the offending student has to wait until the end of the year to get the phone back.

Maryvale High School has changed its police for the new school year, requiring students to keep phones away for the day. "Cell phones have become a distraction, taking away from the learning process," says principal Thomas Stack. "The reason why we chose this policy is because students will have access to chromebooks in every classroom this year. So, we want to teach digital citizenship but we want to teach it under our care, and cell phones would get in the way of that."

Stack says cell phones were welcomed in the classroom. "In the past, they had been a benefit depending on the teacher or lesson practice, and at times aided and abetted instruction," but notes the chromebooks make the phones unnecessary.

Stack says not everyone is thrilled with it. "We have a lot of support for it, but we also have parents against it. They want personal contact and the ability to get a hold of their children at will via text or other means of electronic communication during the school day," says Stack.

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