Community meeting on cell phone policy being planned for Sept.
By Barbara Taormina
REVERE – Students in Revere public schools cannot use cell phones during class time and they must keep all devices in backpacks or lockers until the end of the school day. But the issue is up for debate.
The Revere School Committee struggled this week with setting a revised district-wide policy on cell phones. Revere is hardly alone. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 77 percent of schools throughout the country have cell phone bans. Committee members declined to vote for the Policies & Procedures Subcommittee recommendation to strengthen the policy with increased penalties, such as confiscating a phone and returning it at the end of the day, confiscating phones and returning them to parents or guardians at the end of the week or detention or suspension for a third offense.
Members agreed that students using cell phones in class is a problem that disrupts learning and is disrespectful to teachers and other students in the class. But rather than the subcommittee’s recommendation, they voted to amend the current policy to allow phone use during lunch and they agreed to host a meeting with parents, students and teachers to gather input on a cell phone policy for the district.
Schools Superintendent Dianne Kelly described cell phones as a tough issue and said the proposed policy was very restrictive. Educators worry about banning phones, which became a lifeline for many students during the pandemic. Kelly said she is concerned about setting up teachers and administrators for struggles with students. She also said there are some classes, such as art, in which listening to music with earbuds can enhance learning. She suggested phone use should be left to the discretion of teachers.
School Committee member Carol Tye recalled a much earlier attempt to ban cell phones and the objections of teachers who felt the phones allowed students to have a reference library at their fingertips.
And there is the issue of safety and family emergencies. With school violence having become a concern everywhere, some families may want their students to carry phones in school. And, Kelly said, some students may feel safer just knowing they have their phones available.
The committee is hoping for a community discussion about balancing those concerns and the fact that phones can be a major distraction in classes.
“We’re working toward a strong “no cell phones,” “no ear buds” policy in the classroom with all the trouble they’ve caused,” said Stacey Bronsdon-Rizzo, chair of the Policies & Procedures Subcommittee, which proposed the new rules. “There are academic issues we won’t be able to fix if kids are on their phones. It’s not fair to teachers and other students.”
Several committee members said the current policy, which leaves cell phone use up to the discretion of teachers, doesn’t work because it is not enforced.
The committee intends to have a community meeting on the cell phone policy sometime in September.
“It needs further discussion, but it’s on the right track,” said Acting Mayor Patrick Keefe, chair of the School Committee. “I think we need a stricter policy on cell phones. We all agree on that.”