Desert Vista cell phones

Desert Vista students (left to right) Yasmine Yacut and Elizabeth Voigt texting.

To high school students, cell phones are treasured. But to their teachers, cell phones are a major distraction.

Recently, the Desert Vista High School cell phone policy became stricter than ever but was much needed, said faculty and students.

"A lot of people act as if their phone is a body part," junior Brooke Serack said. "I think teenagers see their cell phone getting taken away as a piece of their heart being destroyed."

Anna Battle, who became principal in 2006, addressed the cell phone issue when teachers reported seeing distractions during instruction, students were late to class, and cheating was becoming a concern.

"We're responsible for all of our kids' learning, and if I'm allowing things to interrupt that opportunity, then I'm not able to do my job." Battle said.

In 2009, the cell phone policy was implemented and prohibited the use of cell phones during instruction time and between classes.

Since then, Battle said Desert Vista is seeing the outcome the policy aimed at. With less than three confiscated cell phones a week, the policy is working as best as it can, she said.

The policy was also meant to teach students cell phone etiquette that they would apply to their professional lives, Battle noted.

"We want to teach kids that there's an appropriate time to use [cell phones] and there's an appropriate time not to. So they get a chance to do that at lunch, and before school and after school," Battle said. "But when the bell rings, it's time to put it away."

Pat Hoye, a junior at the school who has had his phone taken away by a teacher, said that the policy may have dealt with moral issues.

"Maybe it has something to do with our generation getting more and more into cell phones and having our head down texting instead of talking and being active," he said.

Choir instructor Andrew De Valk said he saw many students outside of class staring down at their phones.

"Why not talk to the guy next to you? It's how they communicate," he said.

De Valk noted that as a teacher, he made it clear to his students what the policy entailed and that it was the students' responsibility to follow the rules.

"I think every teacher has their own interpretation and does what serves them best," he said.

However, students said that when it came to enforcing the policy, each teacher was different.

Sophomore Mark Trujillo said that he could usually talk a teacher out of taking his phone away.

"You have to be on the teacher's good side," he said.

The same cell phone policy applies to all faculty members at the school as well in order to set an example for the students, Battle said.

Priyakya Atreya, a senior, said she did not agree with the strictness of the policy.

"But I understand why it happens and people abuse it and cheat on tests," Atreya said.

Kevin Bowling, a junior, said that cell phones are a distraction to students.

"If they miss too much because they're saying ‘LOL' to their boyfriend or girlfriend, they're missing out on an opportunity to learn something," he said. "In the long run it can hurt their grade."

Battle said that Desert Vista is looking into ways of bringing technology into the classrooms.

"Technology is moving and we've got to be prepared to move wisely," she said.

• Jessica Slapke is a junior at The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

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