The phone mandate

Kade Brackin, Editor-in-Chief

This year, Principal Christi Silcox established a rule that students must have their phones turned off and in their backpacks at all times. Some students are unhappy with the rule.

After presiding over discipline at a different school, Silcox realized that students were sharing pornography and cyber-bullying through their phones. She also realized that students were not adequately building the social skills employers seek and were more often isolated and depressed.

“I didn’t deal with a fraction of the discipline issues when it came to a phone,” Silcox said. “I mean, maybe once or twice a year, I would have to deal with something on the phone or social media because we just took it out of the day. So kids’ feelings weren’t getting hurt over social media during the day; they weren’t seeing things they weren’t supposed to. It just took that ugly element out of our day.”

Silcox has noticed a change in students at West Hardin as well.

“…I saw a teacher post on Facebook about her kid who never wanted to go to lunch, and he would always hide in her room,” Silcox said. “Well, now that everybody is talking and visiting, he can’t wait to get to lunch. He comes and asks her if he can borrow the UNO cards for lunch, and it’s just changed the dynamic.”

Teachers have also said they have noticed a difference.

“Last year, I spent [of a 40-minute class period] 10 minutes of it. ‘Hey, put that phone away.’ ‘Hey, pay attention to what’s going on up here.’ so I didn’t finish [teaching the curriculum],” Girls’ Athletic Coordinator and US history teacher Lin Ellis said. “… I fought phones every single day… While I understand why [students] don’t like the phone policy, I have to say it makes my job a lot easier.”

Ellis and Silcox both believe that the rule is preparing students for the real world, stating that students will deal with rules they don’t agree with all of their life, and the rule is preparing students for similar situations in the future.

“I’ve known people who got fired for just looking at their cell phone,” Silcox said. “I think that’s a little extreme too, but I think we have to pull away from our phones.”

The rule also applies to middle school students. Their teachers seem to like the rule as well.

“I love the phone rule,” 7th and 8th grade ELA teacher Holli Harrod said. “With no phones in the classroom, there are so many less distractions. …At least without the phones, I’m not wondering, ‘What’s in their pocket?’ ‘What are they listening to?’ ‘Do they have earbuds in?’ so it’s been great, especially for middle school…”

Teachers may like the rule, but students still have their grievances.

“I think it’s unfair for some people,” junior Natasha Garcia said. “Some of us have work after school, and the only way they communicate with us is through our phone. …For example, when I have a shift that I have to work for, and they call me and tell me I have to be there for something, I can’t receive the call [because I don’t have my phone]. …So by the time I get there, I miss my shift, or I get in trouble with my boss, and obviously, I don’t want to get fired.”

Silcox said that “if you need to call your parents, or they need to get ahold of you, our office is open.” Junior Mackenzie Fregia believes that this is not the case.

“… [the administration said] we can contact the school if we really need them, but they don’t answer their phones,” Fregia said. “When I got COVID, it took my mom three days to get a hold of them to let them know.”

Silcox understands, however, that no policy is without its flaws.

“If [students] have a concern, [they should] come talk to me because I’m not perfect,”  Silcox said. “Maybe there’s a real emergency or a real concern that we need to think of a solution for. I don’t want anyone to feel anxious or worried that they can’t get in touch with their mom or they can’t get something they need, so if there’s something that they feel like I have not thought of, then come talk to me.”