New cell phone policy to take effect

Under the new cell phone policy, students will be allowed to use their phones during lunch and passing periods in Acceptable Use Zones (AUZ), including the commons. Photo by Ian Magnuson
Under the new cell phone policy, students will be allowed to use their phones during lunch and passing periods in Acceptable Use Zones (AUZ), including the commons. Photo by Ian Magnuson

By Maddie Conway
Executive News Editor
Up until just last school year, according to the 2009-10 Student Handbook, the official District 214 policy on cell phone use during school hours was that students’ cell phones had to be “stored in a student’s locker in the ‘off’ mode.” The use of a phone during the school day was not allowed, despite students who not only kept their phones with them in school but also used them during class time.
With this as the official district policy, Superintendent Dr. David Schuler said that the district decided that it wasn’t “practical” to have a policy that did not allow students to use their phones throughout the entire day.
“It was really important for us to update [the policy] in consideration of the times,” Schuler said. “… [The previous policy] just doesn’t make sense in our world. 15 years ago, it made perfect sense, but now with texting and everything, … we needed to find a more workable, enforceable solution.”
That solution came in the form of a new district-wide cell phone policy that will take effect immediately this school year in which students will be permitted to use their cell phones in specifically designated areas on campus. These areas are called Acceptable Use Zones (AUZ), and students will be allowed to use their phones in these areas during lunch and passing periods only.
According to Prospect’s website, AUZ at Prospect include the commons, foyer, cafeteria and vestibules. Students may not, however, use their cell phones in the library, restrooms, locker rooms, hallways, classrooms or any areas in which “academic activity is occurring.” Students should also understand that the use of audio or video recording devices to record others without their express permission is strictly forbidden.
Principal Kurt Laakso said that with the new policy in place, the district hopes that students will be able to limit their school cell phone use to the approved places and times — not during class.
“We don’t want to be confiscating phones every time we see them,” Laakso said. “So if students feel there’s a chance in the day to use their phones where they won’t run the risk of them being confiscated, then we’re hoping that that will enable us to put the phones away when it’s not appropriate to use them.
“So by giving the students an outlet to use the phones appropriately in certain areas at certain times,” he said, “they will be less inclined to use them when they shouldn’t be using them.”
Infractions of the new policy will result in consequences that are consistent from building to building throughout the district, which include receiving a referral, meeting with the Dean, parent conferences or more depending on the frequency of the misuse and the severity of the infraction.
According to Laakso, infractions of the policy include students using their phones “when there is any kind of educational activity going on in the area,” when they have been told to put their phones away or in areas other than the AUZ.
A much more severe offense “would be using the phone to record either audio or video recordings of staff members or students without the express permission of the subjects,” which Laakso said “would be dealt with quite firmly.”
Laakso also said that the district administration hopes “that this will be an opportunity for us to learn together how to use these devices in appropriate manners.”
“People are well aware of the problems that cell phones and other communication devices cause on the roads, for instance,” Laakso said of cell phones and the problems they can cause. “They’re well aware of the disruptions they can cause at family gatherings or events such as weddings or funerals or church services or meetings at work.
“They can be very distracting and very disruptive, and therefore, we have an obligation to one another to use these appropriately and thoughtfully so we’re not being rude to other individuals, that we’re not interfering with important occasions and that we’re not doing anything that could be dangerous to others.”
“We have to recognize that there is a responsibility that comes with the power of these devices,” Laakso said. “… and you have to learn how to use them responsibly so we’re not injuring others either physically or socially or psychologically.
“So there are real concerns about how people manage the use of their recording equipment and their cell phones,” he said, “so we’re trying to make sure that we have a chance to talk a little with one another and to model the right behavior in our schools.”