East End Middle School Banning Cellphones

Feb 17, 2017 | Biz/Tech

Faculty at Earl Grey Senior Public School are hoping to eliminate cellphone distractions in their classrooms and hallways. (Wikimedia user StFX)

By: Helena Shlapak

A Toronto school’s decision to ban cellphones from classrooms and hallways is meeting with mixed reviews.

Earl Grey Senior Public School implemented the cell phone ban after complaints from parents.

Child educator Linda Martin applauds the decision, saying cell phones interrupt class time and are distracting, especially for teachers.

“The phones are fine in their locker and when they leave to go home or go on to practice then it’s accessible to them,” said Martin, Director of Green Apple Children’s Centre. “I think a lot of middle-school kids have phones for safety. I don’t think there’s really any need for phones to be out in the classroom.”

Earl Grey principal Bill Vatzolas decided the amend the school’s current cell phone policy, adding to the policy that states that no texting, photo taking, or social media be used during lunch time. Phones will not be allowed unless needed for educational purposes in class.

A Coordinator for the School of Health Sciences and professor at Humber College says she understands that phones are distracting but they do serve a purpose in class.

“We use cellphones and different devices in the classrooms,” Tuck said. “I think the bottom line is that you have to turn it around and make it (technology) work for your classroom as long as it’s not interfering with anybody else’s learning.”

Another early childhood educator, Paula Morales, said the ban makes perfect sense to her.

“I was in high school not too long ago and I had a cell phone and we weren’t allowed to have them during class,” said Morales. “We weren’t allowed, and the reason was that kids abuse it.”

The inappropriate use of phones is part of the reason for Earl Grey’s ban.

“In some cases, there had been inappropriate/negative use of these phones at the school,” said TDSB Spokesperson, Ryan Bird. “In general, the phones had become a distraction in class, so the school took steps, in consultation with parents, to reduce and eliminate that issue.”

Bird added that Earl Grey is taking an education approach to the new guidelines. A speaker come in next month to speak to students and parents about online safety and appropriate use of technology.

Tuck agrees that students have to learn etiquette or “netiquette” at a younger age.

“There’s inappropriate use across all schools and I don’t think that necessarily warrants an outright ban,” she said. “I’m more in favor of teaching somebody how to use something appropriately and then we can have that as part of our environment.”

Earl Grey, the only school in Toronto with an outright cell phone ban, refused an interview request from Humber News. The cell phone ban comes into effect on Feb. 21.