MCPS Phone Policy’s Fight to End Racism and Short Attention Spans

Seniors naturally have the right to complain about new policies as they face the most change to what they are used to. Anyone who showed up the first week of school can confirm how the new phone policy was brought up in every class period. Teenagers on average spend seven hours and 22 minutes so there may be an addiction aspect worth mentioning. Naturally, students are not happy about the new policy. Students filled in a survey that showed a group would prefer stricter cell phone policies to help themselves and their peers focus. While some students may have issues controlling their phone usage in class, group punishment is not the answer. 

The Minority Scholars sponsor and AP Lang/Creative Writing teacher Dr. Omari Daniel feels that the policy fights systemic racism. The majority of teachers are white and tend to give up on students of color before their white counterparts. The people failing are disproportionately black and brown students. Scholars who receive high grades and test scores may be spending time on their phone with no expense to their grades. 

β€œWhen we let people sit on their phones, it made the achievement gap bigger because we would let people fail. When the policy is in place, the teacher actually has to teach them and engage,” says Daniel. β€œBy default, the student has to pay attention. What group of people struggles the most from the achievement gap? POC.”

Asking teachers to fight for attention from phone-obsessed teenagers is simply out of their pay grade. It was hard for teachers to keep students engaged in a virtual setting, but that is completely unrealistic for a physical classroom.

β€œEarly on, I feel it is best to strictly enforce new policies so that people can become adjusted to a rule change,” says Assistant Principal Shanay Snead–who will assume the principal role this winter. β€œCell phones can be extremely helpful at times, they can also be distracting in other ways. MCPS’s intention with the policy was to remove distractions from class after all.”

Many students feel that changing the start and end times of school may be more beneficial. Along with better lighting in classrooms, longer lunches, and improved lesson plans will do the school some good. Others believe more breaks, less homework, and a reallocated budget would help staff understand that students learn in different ways. Neurodivergent students rely on their headphones and music to protect their sensory needs. Some students cannot focus without headphones, and classrooms can be incredibly overwhelming. 

β€œListening to music while I write and learn helps me focus,” says freshman 

Nancy Gardener.

β€œA lot of students have said that they like to use their phones to listen to music while feeling anxious or working,” says Social Worker Cheyenne Frenz. β€œI can confirm that it can be helpful, but when we give an inch, students start to ask for a mile.”

At this point, the cell phone could be considered an extension of the arm, phones were placed in our hands in the womb. Older generations love to talk about how we will never know dial up the internet or how to use a rotary phone. If you’re so anti cell phone, consider sending a telegram or mail by pigeon. However, considering most people your age are on level 1,000 of candy crush, it’s safe to say you’ll opt out. 

β€œEven I can admit I struggle to stay focused when I have my phone around,” says Mrs. Frenz. β€œThe phone has me thinking about what I have to do and as a result, I have a million things on my mind at any given moment.”

Whether or not students and staff approve of the policy is irrelevant. How students and teachers respond to the program is what will make or break it. 

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