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You can hear them now

Area schools lifting cell phone restrictions for students

From left, Tyler Henrie, 17, Tanner Grose, 16, Conner Fok, 18, and Nicole Horgrook, 17, Goodrich High School students, check their cell phones after school. Photo by Patrick McAbee. (click for larger version)
April 04, 2012 - Like many students, Lucy Grogan calls home on her cell phone when she arrives at school in the morning..

"When I get to school I call Mom and let her know I made it," said Grogan, 17, a senior at Goodrich High School.

"A lot of kids are really attached to their cell phones, but after calling home I keep it in my backpack until I'm out of school for the day. Most kids don't take their phones out all day."

While some students like Grogan are already judicious with cell phone usage at school, others will have a chance to use their phones at school more freely.

By a 6-1 vote the Goodrich School Board of Trustees approved a pilot program to take effect April 16 allowing the use of cellular phones, iPods, MP3 players, or any other personal electronic devices between classes, before and after school and during lunch time.

Goodrich High School joins other area schools including Brandon and Grand Blanc high schools that are easing up on a stringent cell phone policy and opting instead to allow limited use during the day.

"Students live in a technology driven society," said Goodrich High School Principal Stephanie O'Dea. "We have kids that have parents who want to get a hold of them. In addition we try to give our students a little bit of freedom as a way of rewarding them."

O'Dea said that cell phones were a novelty at first and were out all the time—now she expects that phones will be out much less then before in class.

"High school is a learning experience and can teach students how to use them appropriately."

The pilot plan will not allow students to leave class in response to any electronic device.

The first offense will result in confiscation of the electronic device which will be placed in the office until the end of the school day. The second offense will be confiscation of the device which will be picked up by a parent or guardian. The third offense results in a one day suspension. The fourth violation could result in a three day suspension.

Trustee Chip Schulz voted no on the pilot program.

"There's no reason to use the cell phone during the day," he said. "They can be on Facebook and online between classes—access can prompt the bullying—posting school activities that may be unwanted. Why do they need to be on the phone or texting?"

"School is a place for learning, not for talking on the phone," he added.

Brandon Superintendent Lorrie McMahon implemented a similar pilot cell phone policy at the beginning of the 2011 school year.

"The policy has lessened discipline issues since we started it—the teachers and the school principals were always on students regarding their cell phones," said McMahon. "Cell phones in school were a constant point of contention—it prompted negative interaction. The environment in classrooms and hallways has changed—the teacher is just not disciplining all the time. Now students know they can use cell phones after class or after school—it's far more positive."

McMahon said she will recommend the pilot cell phone policy be permanent this fall.

"In some cases teachers are implementing the use of students' Smart Phones in classwork—it has become another tool for education."

McMahon added that on occasion students have used the phone to transmit photos or other data regarding classmates to the Internet in a negative manner.

"We put that out there this behavior will not be tolerated—it can be a form of bullying."

GHS student Grogan supports the pilot cell phone policy.

"There is, however, texting that goes on during the day—not as much as my freshman year—since then it's kind of died down a little. I think this new policy is a nice step toward adulthood for students and the school administration giving just a little more responsibility. They are giving us a little more freedom."

Grogan said she can't recall many abuses of phones and the internet over the last four years at school.

"A kid fell asleep in class one time and someone put his picture on Facebook—that's about it."

The Goodrich School Board will evaluate the pilot cell phone policy this summer.

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