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Monfredo: Cell Phone Policy In Worcester… Power Them Off In School

Sunday, June 19, 2016


As schools across the country grapple with cell-phone policies, here in Worcester the School Committee, after several discussions with our secondary principals, administration and input from our city solicitor, David Moore  arrived at a policy for cell phones as well as all electronic devices including laser pointing devices.

The rule is as follows: 

Rule 13. - Cell Phones, Electronic Devices, and Laser Pointing Devices….A student shall not use a cell phone or any type of electronic device which may potentially be deemed disruptive on school premises or at a school sponsored event without expressed permission of appropriate school personnel. Electronic devices are defined as anything suitable for communicating (oral or written) or recording (voice or image). Students are not permitted to have their cell phones or electronic devices powered while in school. Inappropriate or illegal use of such devices may result in disciplinary action including, but not limited to, out-of-school suspension time. The School Administration reserves the right to confiscate cellular phones or other electronic devices when a student is potentially violating the code of conduct. A student shall not possess a laser pointing device of any type on school premises or at a school sponsored event, unless such device is distributed by a teacher or its use is authorized by a teacher in connection with school work. Use of a laser pointing device against the face, eyes, or head of another individual may be considered a weapon for disciplinary purposes including, but not limited to, the possibility of long-term suspension.

There is also strong language in the enforcement of this policy for a first offense will result in the device taken away and returned to the student at the end of the day. The second and subsequent offense  will result in the cell phones being turned over only to a parent or guardian. Parents or guardians may within five days of any such confiscation request a hearing to determine the validly of the violation.

In addition, the following motions were made by me and approved:

•    That the policy of rule 13 be reviewed in January for possible amendments, if needed.
•    Request that the principals review the policy with students and parents during the first week of school and include the policy in their newsletter.

The policy and the motions were approved, but it is the hope of the school committee that the policy be supported by our parents.  In the past, many parents have defended cell phones  for safety purposes. They argue that in the case of an emergency, they want immediate access to their children.  In addition, parents have stated to me that they want to communicate directly with their children about pick up time, scheduling  and emergencies that come up without having to go through the school office. This policy allows them to do that but it must be after school hours and NOT during school time. Parents can still reach their child if there is an emergency by calling the school office as parents have done for decades.

Teachers  on the other side of the issue have written to me and stated  that cell phones are a distraction: citing cheating, texting, and even parents calling their children during school time that takes the focus out of learning. One teacher affirmed, “I truly believe that cell phones are interfering with school  progress.  Never mind the social media drama they bring to school because of what they say to each other via Facebook or text. .. a good amount of school mediations in our secondary schools are social media related.  We really need to work at this situation for the cell phone is interfering big time with school progress.  Unfortunately, technology is hurting us on this one.”

The distraction data backs up what that teachers have acknowledged for in looking at the infractions  this year within our secondary schools  we find close to 300 cell phone violations. It is time consuming and a loss of learning for many students.

Let’s hope the word gets out that cell phones are to be powered off when coming to school.  On another note on cell phones, let’s keep an eye and have an open mind on what research has to say about cell phone radiation as it relates to our students health.  That will be a topic for another day!


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