Calling all middle school families — the Sag Harbor School Board is weighing changes to the Pierson Middle School student cell phone policy, and will take up a debate at its August 27 meeting on specific rules to possibly put in place for the start of school on September 5.
On the recommendation of Pierson Middle-High School Principal Jeff Nichols, the Sag Harbor School Board will present several options for parents to weigh in on. They will be culled down from four different options of sample cell phone policies researched and drafted by Pierson Middle School Assistant Principal Brittany Carriero and presented during Monday’s school board meeting.
Included is a policy based on one that is already in place at East Hampton Middle School, which East Hampton sums up in writing as “No Display During the Day.” Sag Harbor labeled it “Option 1” and defined it as no cell phone use at any time during the school day, including through the end of the academic support period. The only exception would be if a teacher asks students to bring their phones out for instructional purposes.
“Option 2” would restrict cell phone use between periods one through nine, with students able to access their phones during academic support with teacher permission. “Option 3” would allow students to use their phones only during lunch and, with teacher permission, during academic support.
“Option 4” would mirror the Pierson High School cell phone policy, which permits the use of cell phones before the start of first period, in hallways, during lunch and after school. Inside classrooms, cell phones must be turned off and stored so that teachers cannot see them. Teachers may allow students to use them for educational purposes.
For all of the proposed policies, consequences are laid out for violations. A first offense leads to the confiscation of the cell phone, which would be held in the office until the end of the school day. A second offense would yield the same result plus one lunch detention. A third offense would lead to the phone staying in the school office for five school days and the student would receive one day of in-school suspension.
“A lot of community members, the ones who were very vocal, were wanting one mirrored after East Hampton,” Ms. Carriero explained. “Option 3 is what we currently have now.”
While the board reserved a full debate for its August 27 meeting, some board members chimed in with opinions on Monday. Alex Kriegsman said he favored a policy that mirrored East Hampton Middle School’s policy, prohibiting cell phones during the day.
“Smartphones are a part of all of our lives now, but there is really no need for middle school students to have them during the school day,” he said. “I think it creates a lot of problems and a liability for the school. It’s time for us to make a decision on this. The community wants us to.”
Board president January Kerr said she wanted a policy even stricter than Option 1, because even students that have their cell phones with them but out-of-sight can still have the urge to check them.
“It creates more anxiety, knowing you have it but you can’t use it,” she said. “I think they need to be locked away in their lockers for the day and no access.”
Board member Chris Tice agreed.
“I think it’s going to be really hard to enforce it off their person, but we are naïve that if we think that [a phone] sitting in their back pocket and having it buzzing is not going to get their anxiety up,” she said.
Some seemed worried that parents who prefer a more liberal cell phone policy were not represented among the community members who had already expressed their opinions on social media.
“I think my concern is that we’re not hearing from those parents because they’re used to it being more liberal,” Ms. Carriero said.
The next board meeting is Monday, August 27, at 6:30 p.m. in the Pierson library.