Let’s dig into what’s going on with cell phones in the Chambersburg Area School District

March 27 – Studies have shown how successful it can be – in terms of behavior and education – to remove cell phones from students in schools. 

Chambersburg Area School District Superintendent Chris Bigger recently went on Instagram to appeal to parents to keep their children off social media to help combat bullying. 

Are cell phones allowed to be in Chambersburg schools? 

Chambersburg Area School Board Member Stephanie Harbaugh said, “I went on our website and I looked up what the policy is for electronic devices. In the elementary school in Chambersburg, they’re not to have anything, that makes sense because they have enough going on. At the middle school, I’m reading it straight here from what was online for our policy, it says the board prohibits the use of any electronic devices by any middle school student, while in district buildings, on district property and grounds, including on district buses and at school sponsored events. An electronic device that’s possessed by any student in the school buildings on district property must remain powered off and kept out of sight at all times, except as follows and it just says if you’re in an after school activity, or whatever the case might be. So for the middle school, they’re supposed to have them powered off and away. Then in the high school, there is a little bit of a change there, because the board prohibits the use of them throughout the instructional time. So they would be allowed to have them at lunchtime, and they’d be allowed to have them whenever they wanted to stop at their locker. So it to me, it looks like in Chambersburg, at least, that there are policies that are addressing that. So now maybe we just need to look at whether those are the enforced or how they’re being implemented and if we want to change anything about that. I’m all on board with really looking at how we can lessen distractions for the students and for the teachers because education, it’s changing. Its evolving. It’s not like whenever I was growing up, and you walked in and cell phones weren’t a thing until, well I was in college when I got my first cell phone. So it’s a different world. I think that looking at that, we probably want to make sure that if we’re going to do anything as far as changing that or really getting into the enforcement of that, that we have a ramp up and we have a build up to that. That we make sure that okay, we have two months left, maybe now’s not the time to go in and rip them out because then it could be totally dysfunctional because they’ve made it work this far, but how can we look at it moving forward for an implementation in a new school year or something like that, that way, we’re ready to go and we can make sure that everybody has a stake in it, teachers, administration, students, parents understand what’s going on. So I think that’s definitely something to talk about and look into because we want to try to make the classroom as educational and as less distracting as possible so teachers can do their job and the students can learn.”

Pat Ryan of NewsTalk 103.7FM said, “Love it. You’re right on the enforcement. I’ve got a number of calls and a number of emails on the policies that you just cited here. I see the school buses every day that they are running in front of the radio station. How possible is it for that school bus driver?”

Cell phones are prohibited on school buses for elementary and middle school students. 

Ryan said, “Sit in the radio station. Sit with me some morning. Watch that school bus drive by. It’s impossible for that school bus driver to just yank those phones, but I love your idea. I’m all for this. All right, what do we do in the new school year? We’re in the middle of March. Do we need that kind of headache? No. But do we need the enforcement arm? Yeah, I agree with you. So I don’t know how you’re going to do that. But now is the time.” 

Harbaugh said, “I think sometimes, too, we have these policies and they’re on the books, but the enforcement is key. It’s just like anything else. It’s like parenting in general. You can say I’m going to count to three and if you get to three and nothing happens, what is that child learning? They’re learning that three doesn’t mean anything.” 

Ryan added, “I get the emails and they tuck away and they say, we don’t want to enforce this because of Global Thermonuclear War. I don’t want to say they’re afraid, but they don’t want to get into the who knows what kind of thing is going to happen for that teacher when they start going to that enforcement? So I’m more interested in empowering the teachers.” 

Harbaugh said, “That’s a conversation to be had because I think for so many years, there was such for lack of a better word dysfunction at the very top of Chambersburg. So now it’s as we realized that we have Chris Bigger now who is trying to take a good look at where we are with his state of the district and be honest about the things that are working and not working, this is just one more piece of the puzzle that we can look at to see how we can make the educational experience better in Chambersburg for all the stakeholders.” 

Ryan said, “I like his pitch, I like his social media posts. I’m just asking for a two way street on this.”

Harbaugh said, “Social media is just, I mean, back in the day when you wanted to say something about somebody, you had to take the chance that you’re going to get punched in the face. I think when you have taken that away, and now everybody can just say what they want without any repercussions, that makes people a lot more brave whenever they can just stay behind that keyboard and say whatever they want. It’s very, very unfortunate that social media has led to such a broad scope of bullying, and I think that’s where a lot of it starts because something happens in the school day, and then all night long, you’re on Snapchat or TikTok or Instagram and it just builds and builds until you come back.”

Ryan agreed, “One hundred percent right. I mean, we’ve seen it in politics. You’ve got a whole bunch of courageous keyboard warriors out there in their underwear in their basement shooting their mouths off and then without the come on in, come on into the radio station. Let’s sit down. Let’s have a talk about it. Oh, no, no, no, we can’t do that. No, we’re going to hide behind the keyboard. That’s where our power and our strength is, but there is no power, it’s more cowardice than it is power.”