News Feature

Deer Isle
Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, September 27, 2018
Cell phones regulated at high school

by Tevlin Schuetz

“I’d like to say, ‘thank you very much.’ This has been long, long, long overdue,” CSD Board member Skip Greenlaw said.

Greenlaw was addressing principal Dennis Duquette’s implementation of cell phone policy enforcement at the high school, which Duquette had outlined during a CSD Board meeting earlier this month.

While the restriction on cell phone use is not new to the building, the renewed emphasis is.

“We’re going to enforce what is there,” Duquette said. “There [had] been no consistency to it.” Many staff members felt students were using their phones whenever they wanted to, at all times during the school day, Duquette said.

“It’s not that much more drastic at all than what was already written in the student handbook. All we have done is tighten up control of the cell phone policy,” he said.

Phones are taken from students violating the policy but are returned at the end of the day, Duquette said, adding that if students need to make important calls to family or if they need to have their phones on to receive important calls or messages, all they have to do is let their teachers know.

“There is always a reason to use your phone, but what we’re emphasizing is respect, trust and communication. We don’t want a lock-down policy; we want to be flexible to a certain extent, but have [students] follow the rules and guidelines we lay down,” Duquette said.

He explained the policy to the grades individually when the school year began, using the opportunity to introduce himself personally, he said, and he looks to a positive outcome. “I don’t see it being a big issue, and within a couple weeks, I think it’s going to be the best thing that could have happened to academics—and even the social scene—at the high school,” he said.

The policy also applies to teachers and staff, and Duquette sought their commitment before enacting the practice.

They are all on board, Duquette said. “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. I can’t walk into a classroom, take out my cell phone and start talking or texting if our students can’t do it … because we have to lead by example.”

Duquette also will encourage the student council to take on a leadership role and work with the school administration. “I want students to take responsibility … [and] to be part of the solution.”

“Maybe there can be negotiation, where students can use their phones during morning break,” he said.

“The whole message is proactive. It’s not discipline. It’s not ‘no, you can’t do that.’ We’re trying to build this incredible atmosphere, and in a school this size, you can do wonders. It’s going to work. I’m excited about it,” Duquette said.

And so far, so good. Duquette said students have adjusted well to the revived policy. Only a couple of students broke the rule during the first day of school, and since that time, violations have been few.

“Students have been excellent about it,” Duquette wrote in a September 24 email to Island Ad-Vantages.

“Staff feel supported, and very few students are abusing the new cell phone procedure. I have had staff tell me how much better classes are without the constant cell phone distraction,” he said.

“Students have explained to me that they also like it because it is consistent. I have had no parent complaints about student cell phone use either,” Duquette added.

During the school board meeting, parent Heidi Shepard praised the move by the school leadership, adding that as a current college student, she is not allowed to use her phone during her classes; students must excuse themselves. “I’m really excited, because this is at college level,” she said.