Called Out: MFS Cell Phone Policy Update

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After weeks of deliberation and collaboration with faculty, Agenda Committee has completed its revision of the Upper School cell phone policy and sent their final draft along to the faculty for approval.

The purpose of the new policy is to replace the outdated one currently found in the Parent-Student Handbook. Written in a time without modern cell phones or computers, the current policy frustrates many students, who claim that it does not take into account the increasing role of technology in our daily lives.

This has been the central ongoing occupation of the committee since the new year, as students have worked to identify the precise value they place on their cell phones, balance this value with the need for productivity, and incorporate input from teachers who have to consider the impact of phone use on their classes.

When asked if she would be willing to make changes to the AUP, Academic Technology Coordinator Diana Day said, “Yes, I would of course be willing to make any revisions, particularly if there’s a discrepancy between the AUP and the student handbook. That would need to be addressed.” As for whether or not Ms. Day thinks the proposed policy is reasonable, she said, “The AUP is always in favor of technology used for academic purposes, so that’s its bias. But as someone who loves technology and tech devices when used responsibly, I can totally see where the conversation is coming from.”

The consensus has been that the current policy can’t help but be improved on, as it’s become outdated to the point of not even being commonly known. More specifically, individual teachers appear to establish a separate cell phone policy for their own classrooms, due to the lack of clarity regarding the current policy. While students may learn throughout the course of the year which teachers are tolerant to cellular devices, bringing substitute teachers into the mix adds a new level of confusion.

Frequent Middle and Upper School substitute Mrs. Gregory said, “I get my directions from Mrs. Pratt. … For high school what we’ve been told is that no cell phones are allowed on the desk except if there’s a study hall, then students can listen to music,” and added that she cannot stray from this policy unless specifically noted in the teacher’s plan.

Students and faculty alike put the final draft of the policy to the test during Meeting for Business on January 28.

“We knew it was going to be a controversial topic, more so than other things, so yes, we expected a lot of discussion,” said senior Agenda Co-Clerk Travis Benedict.

Reportedly, Agenda Committee found the lengthy revision process rewarding.

“It was fun doing it, I think,” said junior Agenda Co-Clerk Jessica Ferber, “because it was something to talk about. I feel like Agenda is more fun when there’s a lot to talk about.”

Faculty have reviewed the final draft of the policy favorably and made very few changes.

“The goal of the policy should not be to punish anyone but to set up a standard to produce a better environment for students to study and have fun,” said history teacher Judy van Tijn. “I think it will be a complex process because every teacher had their own rules about cell phones before. All teachers should be sure to conduct class according to the new rules so that students won’t be confused and will take them seriously.”

The length of time that this process has taken can’t help but raise questions as to what policies may require revision in the future, and if so, how long it will take to do so. According to Ferber, “We’ve been talking about things like car policy, and whether you can go out during school, but as new things come out like Apple watches, I think eventually that might become something to consider.”

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