Locking up cell phones

New freshman phone policiy forces students to stow away their phones

Imagine walking into your first class of the day. You are finishing up the last level of Temple Run you started last night. You’re so close to beating your high score, but due to a new policy that bans phones for freshmen, you have to put away your phone. Your high score is ruined, and you will have to wait until the end of the day to start over again. 

The freshman phone policy allows teachers to enforce the rule that all ninth grade classes or classes with a majority of ninth grade students must put their phones into classroom pockets or bags,  It is derived from District Policy 7500.2, established in February of 2020, which states phones are only allowed once permitted by a teacher, otherwise students may face consequences. 

“I think it’s just a constant issue that seems to just be becoming more complicated,” English teacher Miranda Nickolite said, “I am happy to see that the school is being more proactive in putting a school wide policy in place.” 

This year, the administration is focusing the policy on freshmen to help them acclimate to high school life. 

“I think the school was concerned that (the school) was too big to tackle. With perhaps routines that are already kind of in place in some classes, they felt they would start with a fresh group with the freshmen,” Nickolite said. 

To recover from the pandemic, a Freshman Success Team made up of MN faculty designates their time helping students recover in their school work after the pandemic. The team discusses ways to support students based on what they have seen in the classroom.  

“Throughout the past year, we have worked with other metro area Freshmen Success Teams to learn more about what we can do to help ensure students get a solid start here at Millard North High School,” assistant principal Amber Ripa said. “The team decided student engagement could be increased if phones were not a possible distractor.”

The school and the Freshman Success Team have taken other steps to help freshmen on their transition into high school, including smaller class sizes and designated study halls, as well as the phone policy. 

“The benefits are fewer distractions in class, as well as learning proper phone etiquette to prepare students for life outside of Millard North,” Ripa said. 

Freshman students understand the policy and follow different rules based on their teacher. Most students will never face consequences for their phones, but they see the policy enforced on freshmen as unfair.  

“As long as it’s face down [on the desk] it shouldn’t be a problem,” freshman Kristy Phelps said, “I follow [the policy] so I don’t get my phone taken away.”

Other students feel the policy puts their phones at risk. The phone pockets that sit at the front of the classroom take the control of their own device out of their hands. 

‘I don’t want my phone not on me, so I don’t put it in the pocket. I do when I have to,” freshman Mya Goff said. 

Although the district has taken extra precautions to keep freshmen more engaged in class, students like Goff don’t feel the positive effects of the policy. 

“I don’t think anything changed, like it’s just more annoying and it makes kids want to have their phone out,” Goff said. 

Ultimately, the choice to have phones out during class is given to the teacher. While teachers like Nickolite give their students freedom to use their phones during work time, other teachers have the option to be stricter about the policy. 

“There are always problems with phones, I would say as a whole students understand when are the right times and the wrong times to have their phones out. But there are always those few students that feel the rules don’t apply to them,” Nickolite said.