At their June 4 meeting, the Hanover School Board (HSD) board of trustees voted unanimously to amend the divisional technology policy, banning the use of cell phones for students attending any of their elementary and middle schools.

Assistant superintendent Colin Campbell says that the division was encouraged by the results of a pilot program implemented at the Stonybrook Middle School last fall. The decision to run the program on a trial basis came from the school principals with the endorsement of senior administration.

Campbell says that a number of factors caused Stonybrook’s administration to take action.

“Over the past few years, there has been a noticeable increase in online communication through social media, which has led to friendship issues and negatively impacted in-person relationships among students,” Campbell says. “These problems have required significant time from the principal and guidance counsellors to resolve.”

Additionally, school educators were witnessing a trending decline in physical activity among students as well as a lack of face-to-face socializing during recess and lunch breaks.

“Physical activity is known to enhance student engagement in class and improve overall health, while in-person interactions are essential for healthy social development,” Campbell adds. “These considerations prompted the school to move forward with creating a cell phone-free campus to address these challenges and foster a more positive school environment.”

Encouraged by the positive outcomes seen just one year into the pilot program, Campbell says that dialogue began to take place between other middle school principals, the trustee board, and parent advisory councils (PAC) to assess support for a more broadly applied policy.

“During a school board/PAC liaison meeting, senior administration discussed the possibility of implementing cell phone-free schools for [all] K–8,” says Campbell. “The PACs in attendance agreed that this would be a positive change. This internal consultation process helped shape the decision, ensuring it was well-supported by the school community.”

The amended policy is not a huge leap from the previous Responsible Use of Technology policy held by the division.

For elementary schools and high schools, nothing is likely to change.

In the early years, Kindergarten through Grade Four, student cell phones have not been permitted on school premises without explicit permission from the principal for quite some time.

For now, high school students can anticipate that in-school cell phone use will continue to be governed by policies created by individual school administrators.

The only divisional restrictions concerning cell phone use in high schools concern the use of devices for taking videos, photos, or voice recordings of students or adults without their express permission.

Unless permitted by the teacher, personal devices containing cameras are also prohibited during tests and assessments.

For Grades Five to Six, personal technology devices brought to school had to remain in a student’s locker, while Grade Seven and Eight students were allowed limited use of cell phones during school hours.

“Students [at this level] are at the age where it is important to start preparing for how to effectively and respectfully use cell phones at school,” the old policy stated. “This is a critical step in preparing students for Grades 9 to 12, where greater independence with personal devices is provided.”

It is at the Grades Seven and Eight level where the amended policy will be felt the most.

Campbell says that the amended policy is being reviewed by the governance team for any necessary revisions and will go back to the board for a vote on the final reading at the end of the month.

By Brenda Sawatzky, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Jun 13, 2024 at 08:39

This item reprinted with permission from   The Citizen   Niverville, Manitoba
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