Middletown School District Extends Cell Phone Ban; concerns raised

MIDDLETOWN – Middletown will kick off the new school year with a cellphone ban across all of its seven schools. This follows a ban imposed last year at his two colleges for several months.

The goal, according to a district statement released July 20, is to limit distractions during the school day, but some parents are concerned that student safety could be compromised.

Nicole Vanterpool, whose daughter attends Middletown High School, said she understands the district’s concerns about distractions and students accessing social media with their phones, but would like her child to be able to reach her in an emergency. .

“Of course kids shouldn’t take their cell phones out during class. My daughter rarely uses her phone during school hours, only for emergencies,” Vanterpool said.

The July 20 statement to families in the district said its goal with the cell phone ban is to “provide every student with opportunities to learn and grow in an optimal teaching-focused environment.”

All students must turn off and store their cell phones during the school day and they are prohibited from having cell phones in a classroom or any other place where the ban is enforced. Students can use a phone in the main office if they need to call home, and parents can contact students through the school phone in case of an emergency.

“To do that, we need to make sure we work together to make safety a priority and limit as many distractions as possible,” Middletown Superintendent Amy Creeden said in the statement. “We provide this communication at the start of the summer so that our families and young people have time to plan.”

The district will host a community event with the superintendent regarding cell phone use in schools at 6 p.m. Aug. 2 at the High School Media Center.

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The district only banned cellphone use for middle school students in January, but decided to expand the ban to all schools due to what it describes as a “concerning number of issues” stemming from cell phone use.

Presidential Park Primary School.

“We continue to fill post-COVID socio-emotional and academic gaps. We have seen with our own eyes how the possession and use of cell phones is a serious distraction for our scholars in their education,” Superintendent Creeden said.

While some Middletown parents cheered the ban when the district enforced it at two middle schools in January, others worried about not being able to contact their children in an emergency. Some students say they don’t feel safe without a cell phone.

Rachel Whittemore, who has an eighth grade student at Monhagen Middle School in Middletown, said she was worried about security issues.

“For me, I wouldn’t let them go to school without a phone because I’m terrified of the number of shootings. I need him to be able to reach me,” Whittemore said.

Vanterpool said her daughter had an easier time accessing grades and schedules through her phone. Although the school office phone is available, she feels that the influx of people in the office makes her anxious if she has to make an emergency call. She added that she could monitor her daughter’s cellphone usage through an app, which would block her daughter’s access to certain functions.

Creeden said in January that in the event of an emergency, the district notifies parents through an alert message system that sends out calls or posts alerts online. The district is also working with local government and law enforcement to send emergency messages. The district did not respond to a survey on Wednesday about how it would respond to concerns about possible school shootings.

Middletown High School on Tuesday, June 14, 2022.

Cell phone use by students during the school day has long been a subject of debate among educators and parents. Cell phone use was banned for nine years in New York City schools until the ban was lifted in 2015. Some parents sued administrators, claiming the ban violated their constitutional right as parents to protect their children and raise them as they see fit. adapt.

Cell phone policy varies by area school. Minisink is one of the districts that allows mobile phone use under certain conditions. To receive permission to use a phone or other mobile device, students and parents must sign an agreement. Any cellphone used to intimidate or disrupt normal school procedures is prohibited, and each school building determines whether to allow cellphone use at its discretion, depending on the district.

“The use of personal mobile devices on District property is a privilege and not a right,” Minisink’s policy reads.

Helu Wang covers education for the Times Herald-Record. Contact her at [email protected]

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