If there’s one thing you can count on these days it’s the advance of technology. The advance can seem very rapid, as in the case of electronic devices, but what is not always as rapid is the effort to keep up with the advances.
The way cell phones and other devices are used today by young people is in some ways very different than it was in 2003, when phones were not as “smart” as smart phones are today, so from that perspective the move toward policy updates by the Wallingford Board of Education makes a lot of sense.
The board hasn’t made an update since 2003. To get an understanding of just how much a policy revision is due, consider that the last policy contained a section on pagers that was twice as long as the section on cell phones.
But in some perspectives the approach is basically the same: “The use of electronic communication devices and other such technology at school is considered a privilege, not a right,” says the proposal.
The approach being taken recognizes a reality, which is that young people today use technology as routinely as their forebearers wielded a No. 2 pencil. That means you can’t simply tell young people they are not allowed to use phones, smart watches, video devices, digital assistants, iPods, iPads and computers.
But you can define what is appropriate, which is what the board and administration are trying to establish.
So, under the proposal, the approach is to define appropriate use based on age level. Grade school pupils can carry devices to school but they must have them turned off and stored away while school is in session. The approach grants a little more freedom as the student progresses through the grade levels, so high school students can use their devices during lunch and passing periods or during certain emergency situations.
The policy is also taking the important step of including parents, by alerting them that the proper way of getting in touch with students is by going through school personnel in the main office.
These are reasonable and realistic approaches. Also realistic is the recognition by School Superintendent Salvatore Menzo that the policy is not something that can be strictly enforced, “but to express our philosophical belief.”
The school board is scheduled to continue discussion on the policy during meetings on June 17 and Aug. 26. That gives the public the chance to weigh in on the approach. So far, all of this is heading in a very positive direction.