La Mesa launches no-phone policy

(Left to right) La Mesa teachers Heidi Cota, Michela James, Nicole Arteaga and Alex Suarez welcome students to school. Photo courtesy of Michele Krantz.

Students are no longer allowed to use cellphones at La Mesa Junior High School, according to La Mesa Principal Michelle Krantz, who described the school’s new “no phone” policy at Wednesday night’s William S. Hart Union High School District board meeting.

Krantz said during the presentation that it is the first year the school has instituted the policy, after following in the example set by the Castaic Union School District.

Students, once they walk through the front gates of the school, must have their cellphones off and put away. If not, and they are spotted by staff using their cellphones while on campus or in class, the phone is taken by staff, according to Krantz.

“The expectation is that the phone is in the off position in their backpacks when they enter the gates and they don’t access them again until they exit gates at the end of the day,” said Krantz.

Krantz said there were exceptions that could be made for certain instances and students, and that if parents needed to contact their students, they could do so through a special system set up through the school office.

She said that although her school was the first school in the district to implement a policy of this kind, she has received word back from teachers and parents both saying that they’ve seen improvement in their student or child’s school work and social life since the new policy came to fruition.

“There’s no more selling to do, I actually get zero complaints about it,” Krantz said. “The first time they pick it up at the end of the day, no big deal. The second time they pick it up at the end of the day, no big deal, but we do give a phone call to a parent, because next time a parent has to come pick it back up. We’ve gotten no pushback on it.”

Krantz read emails from teachers and parents praising the system during the meeting, as well.

Board President Bob Jensen expressed his support for the program, weaving into the district’s push for wellness of students, and how the policy not only improves a child’s academic performance, but also their mental well-being.

“I think it’s a program that has a tremendous amount of potential to be used in other schools and other aspects of the district,” said Jensen, citing his own studies into the issues associated with young people and too much cellphone use. “Our minds are wired for interaction. And one of the challenges I think society has had from a depression and anxiety standpoint is too much reliance and use of cellphones and handheld devices and they don’t let (students) grow as much socially and interactively.”

When asked if the policy, or some variation of it, could potentially be implemented districtwide, Jensen did not dismiss that as a possibility.

“I think there’s ample room to use what’s going on at La Mesa as a guide or example to see how we can use it in other schools,” said Jensen.

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