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Schools in PSSD have the authority to address smartphone use in classrooms

Division administration presented a report during the recent board meeting about how schools handle smartphone use.
man using a smartphone stock
Using a smart phone

MOOSE JAW — The use of smartphones in schools has been a hot topic across Canada and the United States lately, with some schools having no policies and others forbidding students from using the devices in class.

While Prairie South School Division has an administrative policy governing employees’ use of smartphones and cell phones on the job, it does not address students’ use of such devices. Instead, the division leaves it up to schools to decide when and where youths can access that technology.

During the recent board meeting, division administration presented trustees with a list of Prairie South’s 40 schools and whether they let students use phones in school, whether such expectations are written in a policy or procedure, whether there are additional rules or expectations and whether schools have taught digital citizenship.

The answers showed that some schools:

  • Let students use phones in commons areas on breaks and at lunch
  • Force pupils to keep the devices in their lockers
  • Give teachers the authority to allow or prohibit phone use in class
  • Lay out rules for smartphone use in handbooks and procedures
  • Teach digital citizenship through classes like health
  • Take away phones from students who repeatedly disobey instructions

“I think it’s interesting for us as a board to keep an eye on what’s going on in the rest of the country and abroad (with this issue) … ,” said Moose Jaw trustee Brett Hagan.

Hagan appreciated that the report was detailed and provided a good picture of what’s happening throughout the division. Based on the data, he thought Prairie South was doing a good job of teaching students how and when to use cell phones instead of completely banning the devices. 

“Everybody seems to have the same sense that if it’s one or two times (of students) taking it out, (then teachers) take it away,” Hagan continued. 

The trustee added that schools should be proactive in teaching youths about the proper use of smartphones and social media apps and not just ban the devices outright. 

Trustee Lew Young pointed out that some school divisions in Ontario are suing social media companies because of the negative effect their apps and programs have had on youths. He hadn’t heard of any boards in Western Canada pursuing similar actions but hoped the Saskatchewan School Boards Association (SSBA) was taking this issue seriously.

The SSBA is aware of this problem and attempted to inform its members about social media use among younger generations by bringing in a speaker during the fall assembly, said trustee Robert Bachmann, the board’s SSBA representative. 

“I’m not aware of any current movements going forward (in Western Canada to litigate social media companies),” he continued, adding that the Ontario education minister opposes his divisions’ decision to sue social media companies. 

Board chairwoman Giselle Wilson also thought the report was interesting to read, pointing out that good things are happening in schools that are being proactive in addressing this issue. 

“Kudos to them for being on top of it … . We know that use is going on, so it does seem like there are good practices and rules in place,” she added. 

The board did also discuss this issue last fall

The next PSSD board meeting is Tuesday, Sept. 3. 

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