‘I sort of cried a bit’: Montreal teen reacts to surprise cellphone ban

Story by CBC Kids News • 2019-09-10 14:47

Goal is to improve student learning and health, principal says

Surprise!

Students heading back to school at St. Thomas High School in Montreal got a bit of a shock last week when they learned they were going to have to turn their phones off at school all day long — even outside of class.

“I sort of cried a bit,” said 14-year-old student Kaena Larose.

She said she learned about her school’s new cellphone policy at about 10 p.m. on Sept. 2, the night before her first day of school.

Her mom had received an email from the school earlier that evening explaining that students were now expected to turn off their phones and put them in their lockers for the whole day.

Cellphones are even banned during personal time, such as before class and at lunch.

Still, not all students are complaining.

“I think we should learn to live with it,” said 15-year-old Jeremie Besson. “It’s going to make us excel.”

Kaena Larose, 14, seen here with her pet bearded dragon, Maleficent, says she’d be OK with a cellphone ban during class time, but a ban during personal time crosses the line. (Submitted by Sharlene Ridguard)

Why is the school doing it?

In a statement, school principal Marie-Josée Coiteux said the ban was put in place to address concerns about the impact of cellphones on student learning and health.

The school’s governing board discussed the policy in June and presented it to some parents in late August before everybody was informed by email.

Although Jeremie doesn’t love the idea that cellphones are banned during personal time, the Secondary 4 (the equivalent of Grade 10) student said he thinks there are benefits to an all-day ban.

That includes cutting out a major distraction during class. “You actually have to listen to the teacher, God forbid.”

A cellphone ban will encourage students to pay attention in class, says 15-year-old Jeremie Besson. (Submitted by Anni Mills)

But Kaena, who is in Secondary 3 (Grade 9), said she isn’t sure whether the ban will help with learning.

And the fact that students can’t use their phones anywhere on school property goes too far. “That’s our time,” she said.

Student concerns

Kaena said she can’t stop worrying about how the new rule will impact her day.

The kids in her art class are “as loud as elephants,” she said, so she likes to listen to music while she works. Now she can’t do that.

Kaena is also responsible for getting her brother on the bus in the morning, which is right next to school property.

Her routine involves texting her mom to let her know that everything’s OK on her way across the school field — but now that’s against the rules, too.

Kids compare photos on their phones.

Fines for breaking the rules and pulling out your cellphone in the halls at St. Thomas High School in Montreal range from detention to suspension. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Kaena said she’s gotten in the habit of checking for emailed assignments from teachers during the day, in case her Wi-Fi isn’t working at home.

Now she’ll have to go to the school library to do that, she said, and there are only a few computers to go around.

Even checking the clock in class is proving to be difficult, Kaena said.

The whole thing is “kind of annoying,” she said.

Jeremie said there are some things he’ll miss, such as playing games on his phone between classes. “It calms me down.”

It’s also going to be harder to connect with friends without his phone, he said, because “that’s how you form connections.”

Cellphones lay at the bottom of a basket.

The first province-wide school cellphone ban is set to begin in Ontario this November. (CBC)

The consequences

Kaena said kids at her school are already sneaking their phones out during the day when they aren’t supposed to.

She said she hasn’t risked it. “I don’t want to get grounded.”

Depending on how often you break the rules, the punishment varies from detention to suspension.

Other Canadian schools have tried banning cellphones before. In some cases, those bans have been reversed.

In November, Ontario will be the first to put a province-wide ban in place, although exceptions will be made for educational reasons.

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