Phone policy reflects careful process

At our first meeting last year the Upper School Council decided to make amending the phone policy our highest priority. After more than a semester of research, dialogue, writing, and revision, our phone policy is finally close to its rollout phase.

The revised policy, pending full approval and implementation will allow Upper School students to use their phones during free time, provided that the device is not making noise or otherwise distracting others.

The council evaluated the existing policy by distributing surveys to advisories, and facilitating faculty-student discussions around phone use. We found that students, by and large, did not know the provisions of the current policy and were confused about how uniformly it was enforced. Faculty members found the policy difficult to enforce, and had accordingly developed different standards for when to confiscate students’ phones.

We also heard some compelling arguments for opening up phone use. Most notably, students expressed a need to coordinate evening schedules with their parents and employers. Others, especially upperclassmen with slower computers, prefer to check their emails and Veracross accounts with their phones.

Less desirable behaviors that could potentially be opened up by a revised phone policy, such as playing games and surfing the internet, are already widely practiced on computers. Communication with friends at other schools is already possible through social media. We concluded that mobile phones and laptops have very similar applications.

Our largest concern with amending the phone policy was that phone use would spread to and distract from classes, assemblies, and other important activities. Some faculty members also expressed their concern that the presence of phones would detract from our school’s discussion-based community.

Generally speaking, we addressed these concerns by outlining specific places and times where phone use is prohibited and by making the penalties for violating the phone policy considerably more severe. To keep punishments reasonable, we made an effort to differentiate between active use and accidental distractions caused by cell phones. The Discipline Committee and faculty were closely involved in deciding the new rules around phone policy enforcement.

As the new policy goes into effect, we ask you to respect the limitations still put on phone use. More than being a new privilege, the revised phone policy represents a dramatic change for our community, and it is in many ways an experiment. Your adherence to both the letter and the spirit of the new policy will ensure its success and ultimate longevity.

Thomas Toghramadjian also serves as Opinions Editor of The Rubicon.

To read the News story on the new cell phone policy, click here.