Cell phones are back

Can you hear me now?

For many South Whidbey High School students, their cell phones are a lifeline to friends and family. But the school district’s current policy bans students from even carrying communication devices during school.

But administrators will soon present a more flexible approach in under which students can carry cell phones, but would agree to use them wisely.

A proposed update to the district’s policy on portable communications devises will allow students to carry cell phones but ban their use during classes. On Monday night, the South Whidbey Board of education is expected to update the policy to reflect this change.

With the advent of cell phones and the complexities they pose, school officials decided that the school’s rules need to be broadened to keep up with technology.

Dan Blanton, the district’s assistant superintendent, said parents are giving their students cell phones, so restricting them from carrying those phones would be difficult. But restricting use during class is possible and, at times, necessary. He said there have been instances around the country in which the digital new camera cell phones have allowed a student to take a picture of a test and send it to other students, or take pictures of other students in restrooms and download them to the Internet.

The cell phone has become as much a part of the teenage experience as a backpack and blue jeans, with an estimated 55 percent of 15- to 18-year-olds nationwide carrying the phones, according to the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association in Washington, D.C. In spite of the current policy banning cell phones, students at South Whidbey High School, carry phones to class.

Some students like senior Kagan Boyle say they will ignore the new policy.

“If my cell phone rings when I’m in class, I just don’t answer it,” Boyle said.

Gracie Doran, a junior, is one of many students who believe there are times and places where a cell phone on campus is not only acceptable but necessary. Doran said she checks in with her parents and friends, but only after school.

“I turn it off during class,” she said. “I don’t have a problem with that.”

Doran, like many students say service isn’t very good in the school anyway.

Cell phones seem to be important for parents staying in touch with their children. Parents like Gail LaVassar say a total ban would create a hardship on them. LaVassar’s two children, two attend South Whidbey High School, have cell phones.

“Our family is so busy with after school activities, cell phones help with the logistics of our busy life,” LaVassar said.

Cell phone users on Whidbey Island know there are a number of dead spots, in and around the high school is no exception.

This bothers at least one parent. Connie Pullen said she can’t always get through to her son.

“I believe all these cell phones should work here,” Pullen said.

Pullen said the main reason she and others parents want their kids to carry cell phones is in case of emergency or to call when they need to be picked up after field trips.

The high school hot line also alerts parents when buses are expected back after field trips.

“Sometimes they return to school late and they can call from the ferry and we can be waiting in the parking lot to pick them up.

Pullen cited the massacre at Columbine High School in 1999 as one example of why cell phones are useful to students. Students at that school used their cell phones to call police when two of their classmates gunned down 12 other students and a teacher.

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