The New Phone Policy – Updates at AHS


Nancy Mellor, Managing Editor

In previous years, the phone policy has been that students’ mobile devices should be in the backpack, turned off, and only accessed with teacher permission. The new phone policy* is consistent with keeping devices out of sight during instruction, but in addition to accessing them with permission, students may also have access to them during passing periods as well as the first five minutes of lunch. 

Mrs. Acuña, assistant principal here at AHS said, “we are interested in teaching students how to use technology appropriately and in a way that helps them. Because as we prepare them to become adults…[they] need cell phones and need to be able to use them appropriately and at appropriate times and high school is an opportunity to help with that.” 

It is important for students to learn to discern when it is appropriate to be on their mobile devices and when it is not. Acuña continues, “when we use a cell phone when others are speaking to us or teaching us, that’s not appropriate.” This new policy helps students to focus during class but also helps if students need “to respond quickly to texts or to make a quick phone call in between classes while [they’re] moving from one place to another, that can be an appropriate time.” Acuña cautions that “at the same time, we want them to be aware that cell phones can sometimes be used in a way that can damage [them]. [If students] are on them frequently and using them for entertainment or on a lot of social media…that prevents [them from] having opportunities for the Spirit to be with [them] and prevents [them from] growing…” As students learn to control cell phone usage appropriately, they can strengthen their self-control and deepen their character. 


  Here’s what Mr. Hale, Principal at AHS, had to say about the new policy:


~ What made the administration feel the need to alter the policy?


“High school students are certainly aware of the recent revisions made to the For the Strength of Youth standards. Our church leaders taught us some important things in that revision process; objectives based in truth do not shift, but the way we achieve those objectives can and should shift to adapt to changes in broader society and culture. Technology is a blessing; we can see evidence of how technology has facilitated the hastening of His work in this time. Usage of technology—and cell phone usage in particular—has grown significantly in just the last five years. School administration consequently finds itself operating in a different societal and cultural environment today than when it last made revisions to the technology policy. Our school’s objectives relative to technology haven’t shifted, but we decided it was a good time to review the way we achieve those objectives given the societal and cultural shifts around us. The careful reviewer of the new technology policy will note that, while the policy has relaxed a bit in some areas, there are other areas where the policy has tightened. We weren’t just trying to liberalize the policy; we wanted to make it better, and that required some tightening and some loosening.”


~ How do you hope that this new policy will be beneficial to students but not distracting?


“Many years ago, Elder Uchtdorf gave a general conference talk where he told of the discovery that ballpoint pens wouldn’t work in space. “And so some very smart people went to work solving the problem. It took thousands of hours and millions of dollars, but in the end, they developed a pen that could write anywhere, in any temperature, and on nearly any surface. But how did the astronauts and cosmonauts get along until the problem was solved? They simply used a pencil.” In some cases, technology can truly enhance the human experience. In other cases, technology is neutral at best or negative at worst. Modern prophets, aware of the power of technology to enhance or distract, have consequently given us ample counsel toward careful governance of technology. We are taught to choose to act rather than be acted upon by placing technology within carefully set boundaries rather than allowing it, unbridled, to trigger our impulses and drive our behavior. The administration has four objectives for our use of technology at the school. We want our usage of technology to (1) avoid learning distractions, (2) avoid social distractions, (3) avoid spiritual distractions, and (4) allow students to practice the use of technology in ways that are truly enhancing their experiences. Our policy acknowledges that technology can enhance our experiences; it is for this reason that we choose to rely upon it. Our policy also acknowledges that technology can distract us from learning, socializing, and hearing Him; it is for this reason that we choose to maintain it within deliberate boundaries.”


~ What principles are the administration teaching in allowing students to access phones more self-directed?


“There is a continuum of student development from kindergarten to 12th grade. Over that span, students grow from being highly dependent upon a teacher to be highly independent in what hopefully becomes a pattern for lifelong learning. Individualized technology is largely a tool of independent or self-directed learning. Our elementary students, who are relatively dependent upon their teachers, will never be asked to use individualized technology outside of the library’s computer lab. Our high school students, who are relatively independent of their teachers, will be expected regularly to use individualized technology. We further acknowledge that most high school students today own personal cell phones. They rely upon those phones for communicative and organizational purposes that can enhance their educational experience. Our revised technology policy acknowledges both the benefits and the potential pitfalls of personal cell phones by extending boundaries but not abandoning them.”


*Note that this new policy only applies to high school students; the policy may be different for middle and elementary schools.