Student cellphone use up, discipline down

Posted at 11:04 PM, May 30, 2014
and last updated 2014-05-30 23:34:12-04

(WTVR)- As more and more students in Central Virginia carry cell phones, fewer of them are being disciplined for having those phones at school, according to state education data.

Several teachers tell CBS 6 those phones are a huge distraction inside of their classrooms, so much so, that it’s hard to enforce school policies about cell phones.

Kids in Chesterfield County are not supposed to have phones on them at school, but a group of Midlothian High School students we spoke with said they are everywhere.

“Most people use their phones during class, in the hallways, in the bathrooms, at lunch,” student Lauren Elmore said.

Elmore and three of her classmates said they rarely see students getting into trouble for using their cellphones at school.

“It’s a lot stricter the way it’s written in the books, but the way it’s enforced is a lot different,” student Robert Bass said.

State education data seems to support what those students are saying.

Numbers from the Virginia Department of Education show the number of students disciplined for using cell phones in Chesterfield, Henrico, and Richmond dropped dramatically since 2008.

In the 2008-2009 school year, Chesterfield disciplined 540 students for cellphone offenses, Henrico disciplined 215, and Richmond disciplined 192.

Compare that to the 2012-2013 school year, when Chesterfield disciplined 100 students for cellphone offenses, Henrico disciplined 32, and Richmond disciplined 33.

Shawn Smith, a spokesperson for Chesterfield County Schools, said that “with our school division’s increased access to technology we have seen the misuse of personal technology decrease.”

Students in Richmond Public Schools are prohibited from using communication devices for non-instruction purposes during school hours.

RPS school spokeswoman Cletisha Lovelace said the decline in the number of students punished for cell phone usage “reflects continual reinforcement of the Student Code of Conduct.”

Andy Jenks, a spokesperson for Henrico County schools, said the numbers are not necessarily a bad thing.

“You have to be reasonable with technology as it becomes more and more a part of life,” Jenks said.

Jenks said the system relaxed its cellphone policy several years ago, so kids can have phones with them in class, they just cannot use them during instruction time.

If they do, Jenks said “it’s going to be up to the teacher in the room or the administrator who sees that going on.”

Meghan Goff, a math teacher at Anna Julia Cooper Episcopal school in Richmond, said she used to constantly have to punish students for using their cell phones.

“They’re really distracting,” Goff said.

But, now, the private school where she works decided to confiscate student’s phones at the beginning of the day.

“It’s something that I don’t have to worry about that I used to have to worry about all the time,” Goff said.

Still, the kids said as technology becomes more a part of life, it just makes sense to relax the cell phone policy and actually put the phones to use in class.

“They can also be used for class research and group work,” student Alex Haley said.