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Sarasota Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019 9 months ago

School Board member Bridget Ziegler proposes cell phone ban at schools

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The Sarasota County School Board is considering banning cell phones on district campuses in the future. But will the idea sit well with everyone?
by: Samantha Chaney Staff Writer

Sarasota County School Board member Bridget Ziegler announced a proposal to ban cell phones “from bell to bell” on all district campuses, sparking debate at a Jan. 22 school board workshop.

She argued that the current policy, which specifies that a student must keep their device powered off and put away during school hours, is not enough and is not enforced. 

Board Chair Jane Goodwin and Board Member Eric Robinson angled themselves towards Ziegler’s proposals, though they appeared more willing to be flexible.

Goodwin, in specific, agreed that cell phones should be prohibited in the classrooms of elementary schools, but middle and high schools shouldn’t necessarily see an all-around ban.

“I see no reason for a child to be using a cell phone in class in elementary schools. Students in class in elementary need to be involved in presence. One of the big problems we have in society is we don’t listen, we aren’t trained to listen, we don’t do things individually,” she said. “I think there are considerations for use in high schools. I don’t say I have all the answers right now.”

Similarly, Robinson said he believed that cell phones often did “more harm than good,” in classrooms, citing how he had witnessed a fourth-grade teacher use cell phones as a regular educational tool with students.

Fearing that many elementary teachers could someday require cell phones for similar purposes, he said that cell phones should, therefore, see increased regulation. Otherwise, students who come from lower socioeconomic backgrounds may struggle financially to keep up with the curriculum.

Fellow board members Caroline Zucker and Shirley Brown took more of a middle-ground approach to the proposal.

“Cell phones and technology are a way of life. They’re here. They’re a part of the learning process,” Zucker said, contrary to some of her colleagues. “I don’t know where I fall except that I don’t want a strict ‘ban-all’ policy.”

All members also called into question whether or not the proposal was appropriate as it would potentially impede teachers’ authority to govern their own classroom.

“I would just caution that the conversation needs to be around what you’re willing to allow versus what you’re going to require,” Superintendent Todd Bowden ultimately said. “I also have great confidence in our teachers to manage their learning environments.”

The Board will revisit the topic at their Feb. 5 meeting on district standards.

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