Fri, Feb. 28

Don't You Just Hate That !!!

Have you ever been involved in a conversation with a friend when an annoying ring, buzz, or "La Cucaracha" suddenly interrupts it? Or been at a meeting or workshop when the speaker is distracted by someone yakking away on her cell phone discussing the wedding she went to last weekend? Been text messaged lately?

Many of our teachers experience this daily in the classroom. It is not deliberate or malicious; it is just kids being kids in today's world of instant communication. The problem lies in the fact that the messaging that goes on in today's schools interferes first and foremost with your child's concentration and the teacher's ability to deliver quality instruction.

Students who use cell phones in class are obvious. They are jumpy and distracted and they cannot settle into the lesson. They do not understand Hamlet's speech or Pythagoras's theorem because they are too busy texting a message to a friend and not paying attention to the teacher in front of them.

Page 16 of the school handbook states:

… Electronic Devices: Possession and use of radios and tape/CD players on campus is discouraged. The items will be confiscated and returned to parents/guardians if taken into classrooms or office areas. Additionally, if beepers, cellular phones or other electronic devices become a nuisance on campus, they will be confiscated and returned to parents/guardians only.

In light of the prevalent use of electronic devices and their interference in our educational goals, it has become necessary for Mingus Union High School to restrict the possession and use of electronic devices in the halls, classrooms/gym, and anywhere that is being used as an educational area.

Students must have all electronic devices (an electronic device is a device that emits an audible signal, vibrates, displays a message, or otherwise summons or delivers a communication to the possessor) turned off and out of sight from the time the first bell rings at 7:45 a.m. until the beginning of lunch at 12:15 p.m.

The ban on electronic devices comes into effect again at 1:10 p.m. until school is dismissed at 2:35 p.m.

The district's rationale for such restriction and consistent enforcement of the restriction includes:

1) These devices disrupt learning and instruction in the classroom.

2) These devices cause students to be tardy for class or create the opportunity for the student to skip a class.

3) These devices inhibit students' focus on academics.

4) New technologies are developed which continually introduce new problems into our academic settings. Such as:

o Invasion of privacy-unauthorized recordings, text messaging and photographs.

o Violations of the integrity of instruction and assessment activities. Students using cell phone cameras to take a picture of a test.

o "Cyberbullying" where students place calls or send text messages ridiculing, threatening, or harassing others. A recent issue of Arizona Republic had an article on this subject.

The message from case law tells us that Mingus Union High School can be sued if we know about the of improper use of photographic/communication equipment of any kind, but have taken no steps to prevent that use.

Our school has had several incidents involving photos and text messages that have no place in a school, or for that matter, anywhere. If we are not diligent in our efforts to stop this, a claim of negligent supervision or of violation of recognized privacy rights based on foreseeability may be viable. Therefore Mingus Union High School recognizes its responsibility to our students, staff, and community by strictly enforcing its handbook policy.

Consequences for violating the restriction on electronic devices include confiscation of the device, to be returned to parents/guardians only at the end of the day from the administrator's office. Repeated offenses would carry with them detention, suspension, and parent conference. Repeated violations may result in the student not being allowed to possess any electronic device on campus at any time.

The purpose of the enforcement of this policy is to provide a safe learning environment for our students and a sound educational facility for our staff to do their job.

This policy will go into effect Jan. 4, 2007.

Marc Cooper is the principal at Mingus Union High School.

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