Student: Phones are our friends, not foes

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Coeur d’Alene School Board,

As the cellphone policy continues to spark a vehement debate, I, as an involved student in the Coeur d’Alene School District, have been inspired to share my perspective on the matter.

With the accusation of cellphones continually acting as a “distraction to our learning,” I would like to challenge all school board members to participate in a week with cellular devices turned off and not on one’s person for the hours in which one is working (mind that students are participating in this “challenge” — which truly is a challenge — for the rest of their years as a student in this school district). If education is so valuable and important, those in charge of our education should not have the distraction of a cellphone while working either. After searching for regulations on cellphones for school district officials, I was unable to find a current policy in place. If such policy exists, I would love to be au courant.

The updated cellphone policy is simply askew with the reality of the young adults at the high school level.

In an average school day, I receive three to four emails, two Reminds (an app used in classrooms to give students updates and reminders), and two to three Google Classroom updates from my teachers regarding school work. I also receive on average five to 10 text messages regarding student council business. These notifications are often fairly urgent, and as an active student in the school, cutting off this constant line of updates, questions, and communication is simply unrealistic. I play volleyball both through a travel club team as well as through the high school, and when I got news of the Freeman High School shooting I was on the phone with my teammates from Freeman in a matter of seconds. Recent events in Florida have shown that school is not a bubble protected from the real world and the world outside does not stop while we are in the classroom. Communication through technology is advancing and no cellphone policy can change that. Telling high school students what they can and cannot do does not work (as most parents of high schoolers know), but presenting situations where students have the choice to be responsible will help students in the real world. Teaching students how to be responsible and rewarding them when there is good behavior, rather than only punishing them when there is bad behavior, would solve the problem much faster and more efficiently than a strict policy would.

It is safe to say that almost every student at the high school level has a cellphone. High school is also one of the last times adult influence really impacts the students’ life. I understand that this policy is over the entire district and high school is only one level, but real-life responsibility is just around the corner for high schoolers. This is the time in our lives when we need to make our own decisions and take some responsibility for our own learning. College professors are not going to be taking our cellphones and sending us to refocus. If a student decides to ignore the teacher and be on their phone, they will suffer the consequences in the grade book and sometimes the only way to learn this lesson is to experience it yourself. You cannot force someone to care about their learning, you cannot force someone to pay attention, and you cannot force someone to get good grades. This policy is obsessive and does not have any correlation with students and their academic tendencies. If the ultimate goal is student academic success, phones are not the problem. Creating an environment where students feel respected is the key to academic success.

Personally, I excel most in my AP and advanced classes because that is where I am most treated like an adult. If I am old enough to vote for the president of the United States of America and (if I was a male) be entered in a draft and shipped across the world to fight under the American flag, I believe I am old enough to decide if I am distracted by a phone. The only way to learn how to be responsible is to be given the opportunity to be responsible. Obviously, if a phone is continually causing a distraction to others, it makes sense to remove the phone from the situation, but realistically, this happens not nearly as often as you’d think. One sound from a phone is not a distraction because this generation of students has had this technology their whole lives.

As one individual, I can say I have never been distracted by a phone enough for it to deprive me of my education. I check my phone AT LEAST 10 times a class period unless there is a test or another reason prohibiting me to do so. I am an Idaho Top Scholar, National Honors Society member, two-year letterman in academics, top 10 percent in my class, four-year Renaissance student, and have had a spotless straight-A report card most of my high school career. I have taken almost every AP class available to me and I will be attending a large East Coast university with an average incoming freshman GPA of 4.2 in the fall of 2018. Academic performance and time spent on phones in the classroom do not have a correlation. Performance in school is simply connected to how driven and dedicated a student is to their education. If better education is the goal of this policy, you are looking in the wrong place. A stricter phone policy is not going to help a student like me be more academically competitive nationwide.

While I only have a few more months in this school district, I believe my voice is a reflection of many students and I felt obligated to share my opinion. If improving academic performance is a true goal for this district, then your time and efforts should be focused on academics, not phone policies. I understand that this is not an easy decision to make on a controversial topic, but I appreciate your time and giving me the opportunity to have my voice heard.

•••

Emily Kladar is a Coeur d’Alene High School senior.

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