School Climate & Safety

Chicago Students Push District to Loosen Cellphone Rules

By Ian Quillen — October 15, 2010 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

When 15 students from Chicago’s Mikva Challenge education council suggested technology reforms to district Chief Executive Officer Ron Huberman, exploring the on-campus use of cellphones, and particularly smartphones, was just one of 18 bullet points.

But for their teachers, it may have been the scariest one.

Students on the council, created to encourage teenagers to become more active in civic affairs, say the recommendation to allow cellphone use in hallways, during open periods like lunch, and in class as “teacher-defined learning tools” was meant to give teachers more choices about how the technology should be used. But some of their teachers have opposed the idea since the release of the council’s white paper in August.

“Most teachers, they’re automatically against it,” says Lisa Jean Baptiste, a junior at Harper High School in Chicago and a member of the council, which was set up by the Mikva Challenge, a nonprofit that exposes the city’s youths to opportunities to participate in the political process. “I don’t think they understand the whole policy.”

Another factor is whether educators view cellphone use as one issue—a disciplinary matter—or two separate, but closely linked, issues of both student discipline and classroom learning.

Even students say they began thinking about cellphone-policy changes as a way to curb conflicts involving students, teachers, and school security personnel. Only after suggestions from advisers did they consider the potential of using phones to take field-trip pictures, hold text-message back-channel discussions, vote in teacher-prompted Web polls, or do math on a phone’s calculator.

“I just think the way that we were thinking about this is that a lot of schools don’t have the [technology] resources other schools are privileged with,” says Tiffany Witkowski, a junior at Von Steuben High School. “And a lot of students have their own cellphones.”

Reducing Disciplinary Issues

But Witkowski also says a policy revision would cut down on disciplinary issues.

At Von Steuben, Witkowski says, students have the option of signing a cellphone contract that allows them to bring the phones onto campus. As a result, discipline problems related to the phones have receded, she says, because students “know the consequences.” Any student improperly using a phone has the device taken away until the following Monday.

The truth, say several members of the education council, is that while smartphones might be one way to get more previously unconnected students online, they understand the limitations. And focusing only on cellphones, rather than all their 18 technology reform recommendations, makes them a little uncomfortable.

“By having cellphones as an educational tool, that’s not saying that schools should forget about getting laptops and computers as a resource,” Witkowski says. “But it’s an easier way to have resources without really having them.”

A version of this article appeared in the October 20, 2010 edition of Digital Directions as Student Suggestion Box

Events

English-Language Learners Webinar Helping English-Learners Through Improved Parent Outreach: Strategies That Work
Communicating with families is key to helping students thrive – and that’s become even more apparent during a pandemic that’s upended student well-being and forced constant logistical changes in schools. Educators should pay particular attention
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Mathematics Webinar
Addressing Unfinished Learning in Math: Providing Tutoring at Scale
Most states as well as the federal government have landed on tutoring as a key strategy to address unfinished learning from the pandemic. Take math, for example. Studies have found that students lost more ground
Content provided by Yup Math Tutoring
Classroom Technology Webinar Building Better Blended Learning in K-12 Schools
The pandemic and the increasing use of technology in K-12 education it prompted has added renewed energy to the blended learning movement as most students are now learning in school buildings (and will likely continue

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School Climate & Safety Explainer School Resource Officers (SROs), Explained
Does the presence of armed officers prevent school violence? Do they contribute for Black children to the 'school to prison pipeline'?
13 min read
Greeley Police Officer Steve Brown stands in the hallway during passing periods at Northridge High School in Greeley, Colo. on Oct. 21, 2016. While school resource officers, like Brown, are expected to handle responsibilities like any police officer they're faced with unique challenges working day-to-day in schools
Greeley Police Officer Steve Brown stands in the hallway during passing periods at Northridge High School in Greeley, Colo. While school resource officers, like Brown, are expected to handle responsibilities like any police officer, they're faced with unique challenges working day-to-day in schools.
Joshua Polson/The Greeley Tribune/AP
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School Climate & Safety Quiz
How Much Do You Know About School Crime and Safety?
How much do you know about school crime and safety?
Content provided by Masonite
School Climate & Safety Violence in Schools Seems to Be Increasing. Why?
Experts point to a confluence of reasons, including social isolation and access to guns. But there's no swift, obvious solution.
11 min read
Police respond to the scene of a shooting on Thursday, Sept. 30, 2021 in Memphis, Tenn. Authorities say a boy was shot and wounded at a school. Memphis Police said in a statement that the shooting was reported Thursday morning at Cummings School, which includes grades kindergarten through eighth.
Police respond to a shooting at a K-8 public school on Sept. 30 in Memphis, Tenn. Authorities say a boy was shot and wounded at a school.
Adrian Sainz/AP
School Climate & Safety Schools Ban 'Squid Game' Costumes for Halloween
N.Y. school officials are telling parents the popular Netflix series has no place in schools, either as a costume or a game at recess.
Elizabeth Doran, syracuse.com
1 min read
Attendees dressed as characters from "Squid Game" pose during New York Comic Con at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center on Friday, Oct. 8, 2021, in New York.
Attendees dressed as characters from "Squid Game" pose during New York Comic Con at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center on Friday, Oct. 8, 2021, in New York.
Charles Sykes/Invision/AP