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Cellular Students

December 26, 2013, 9:55 PM by Perry Groten

Cellular Students

In January, the principal of Brandon Valley High School will ask the school board to allow cell phones at the school year round. Brandon Valley students were permitted to use their cell phones on a trial basis this past semester. And the principal says most students texted responsibly by not texting in class.

While the policy is new to Brandon Valley, cell phones have been a constant communication companion for students just across the border in Minnesota. Luverne High School students are all thumbs during their free time.

"I think it's great. You don't get bored in class when you have nothing to do," senior Jon Reisch said.

Luverne seniors have been allowed to text through most of their high school years.

"I think if you don't monitor, it could be a distraction. But as long as you set the rules and stay enforcing them, I think it will be fine," senior Riley Verbrugge said.

Students can text in-between periods and during lunch but not while in the classroom.  Administrators say the three-year-old policy helps teach students how to use their cell phones responsibly.

"So, when they get out to a workplace, when they get out and they're at college that they've learned to be able to have those self-control measures in place," Luverne High School principal Ryan Johnson said.

Johnson estimates 90 percent of Luverne high schoolers have cell phones and up to 80 percent own smart phones. That smart technology contained in their phones can be an important learning tool in class.

"I use it to look things up if I have questions in class. And I use it for a translator in my other language class," senior Yssi Cronquist said.

"I remember last year, in geography, I used it all the time to help look for different countries I didn't know were at," Reisch said.

Students who violate their e-privileges can have their electronic devices taken away for up to three days. Sophomore Adam Fodness was caught listening to his iPod during biology class.

"I'm probably going to leave it in my pocket next time. I'll find other work to do," Fodness said.

Fodness went through a wireless withdrawal during the three days without his iPod.

"I missed all the games that I usually play and then I usually watch videos of my wrestling and how I've been doing and stuff like that and I missed watching that," Fodness said.

Fodness thinks the school isn't strict enough in enforcing the policy.

"I see a lot of people texting in class and we have our teachers yell at them but they get too lenient with it by not taking it away," Fodness said.

"You still have those individuals who will take advantage of the situation but I would say, by far, it's few and far between that's necessarily the case," Johnson said.

Johnson says the challenge is to make sure kids are fully engaged in their studies so cell phones don't become a distraction.

"It's a tricky thing. It's that balancing act that we kind of have with technology. Technology's great, but technology also has issues that we have to deal with," Johnson said.

Johnson expects more and more schools will loosen their restrictions on cell phones because instant communication is a growing part of the culture, where texting and textbooks intersect in the hallways.

"This is, to me, a snowball that you're not going to be able to catch. It's getting too big because really, it's not about necessarily cell phones, what it's about is technology and it's about communications and that how our world is wired," Johnson said.

Johnson says they have roughly one to two cell phone violations a week at the school.

The Sioux Falls School District allows cell phones on school property but, in most cases, they need to be turned off during school hours.  The policy allows administrators at each school to decide what's best for their students and when, if ever, they can use a cell phone inside the building.

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