The School Board Has Spoken and They Want Cell Phones Under Control

Jill Stone

El Dorado High School has changed its phone policy for students and teachers, and many students have expressed their distaste for the changes. EHS Principal Sherry Hill expressed that she sees little difference in the new policy. “In terms of changes really there hasn’t been a lot of changes. The cell phone policy has changed a little bit. Students were never supposed to use them in the classroom, but the wording is different in the policy.”

The new school policy states that students cannot have phones visible in the classroom at any time. They are allowed in the hallways in between classes, before and after school, and during lunch. El Dorado High School doesn’t have a zero-tolerance policy.

“If people have been doing what they were supposed to be doing all along, it wouldn’t be that big of a change for them.” The school board has firmly expressed its stance on the topic. They don’t want phones to get in the way of the education of El Dorado’s student body. “…really, I feel like we’re just doing a better job of enforcing rules that were already put into place.”

EHS Math Instructional Facilitator Amber Miller said that she thought [the policy] was fair and would protect learning time but still allow the students to have some freedom. She mentioned how “some schools near and around El Dorado have tried to enforce much stricter rules which inhibit the students’ self-expression.”

The Parker’s Chapel student handbook states, “Students will not be allowed to use cell phones, smart watches, earbuds, air pods, or Bluetooth headphones during the school day, for ANY reason. Cell phones must be turned off and stored inside backpacks. This policy will be strictly enforced from 7:46-3:05 daily.”

During the Junior meeting on Aug. 29, Assistant Principal Mark Smith mentioned that there was a debate about how far the school should go with the phone policy. Comparing El Dorado’s phone policy to other schools like Norphlet and Parker’s Chapel, El Dorado is relatively relaxed compared to a zero-tolerance policy. Smith mentioned that Hill in particular was for students having more freedom than a zero-tolerance policy.

Hill expressed that her intention was to treat phones like tools in the classroom. Students need to learn responsibility and self-control and she believed that the changes in the phone policy would accomplish this. “Well, I think a phone is a tool… You have to learn how to operate and use the tool appropriately. Well, if you never have access to it then you don’t learn the appropriate behaviors for it.”

Although many EHS students use their phones for more recreational purposes, there are those who need their phones for more practical purposes. “…there are kids that have to be the adults in the house. They’re the ones who get notices about daycare for younger siblings. Some of our students work. I just think kids need access to it because it is a very vital tool for most kids’ lives. I was willing to go to bat for that reason.”

“…the use of a phone at school is a privilege. It’s not a right. Students should know that. With that privilege comes responsibility.” Learning self-control and personal responsibility in a work setting are important for most students’ futures. “The responsibility part is during class time you’re expected to be paying attention and doing assignments and not be on your phone. I thought that was a good compromise. That’s why I recommended it.”

Hill understands that a zero-tolerance policy would be unrealistic for El Dorado students. “A lot of schools around the state are doing away with them completely. And I just think that in today’s world, and how society has changed, that it would be difficult for a lot of people.” 

Students at El Dorado High School have mixed opinions about the policy. Junior Taijah Parker shared a positive view of the policy. “I agree with it. It’s reasonable compared to what some other schools have done.” Junior Kaitlyn Schimberg had a similar view on the policy. “I think it’s good. If I have the option to get [my phone] out I will.” She went on to express not having the option of having the phone out during class helped her to focus on her school work. Junior Kara McDonald had a more negative opinion. “Most teachers aren’t on the same page. Some teachers are more strict about the policy.”