Phone policy: Something to call home about

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Coeur d’Alene School District is giving its new top executive a bit of a welcoming gift: A rational cellphone plan.

Not his; students’.

On Monday night, the school board took a step in the right direction by limiting the use of cellphones in classrooms. Dr. Steven Cook, whose hiring as district superintendent was announced just hours before the board’s cellphone decision, will oversee a district that allows students to bring their smartphones to school and use them during lunch and between classes, but will not allow them to have the phones in their pockets or on their person during class time, with rare exceptions.

The board was split, with trustees Dave Eubanks and Tom Hearn pushing for the cellphone limitations, while trustees Tambra Pickford and Lisa May pulled in the other direction. Board Chair Casey Morrisroe cast the tie-breaker.

The Press has editorialized passionately for restricted use of cellphones in schools, recommending an outright ban except for special circumstances. The reasoning: Research is verifying the highly addictive nature of cellphones and problems stemming from related constant distractions. One shocking study linked students’ inability to focus based on the proximity of their phone to their body. The Press editorial board believes teachers need every advantage at their disposal. Cellphones accessible by students in no way improve the classroom learning experience unless the teacher includes them in specific lesson plans.

Not everybody agrees with the board’s decision, with a variety of objections being raised. One woman posted the following comment on cdapress.com, and it is quoted here exactly:

“Now did the school district think about theft of cellphones in lockers and backpacks? Who going to take responsibility for replacing the phone when that happens! The student and parents should not have to be responsible for someone else’s extra curricular activity to apeas the school board!”

The answer is simple: To avoid risking your cellphone being stolen, don’t bring it to school.

Coeur d’Alene School District can monitor the results of this new policy over the next few years, and if modifications are needed, future boards can make them. But here’s a prediction: At least two things will increase over time — academic performance and eye contact. In the long run, the latter might prove more valuable than the former.

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