UPDATE: Middle School Tech Policy Working Wonders


Connor Niszczak

KC Staff Writer Connor Niszczak updates on how the NP Middle School's tech policy.

LANSDALE –  Imagine going an entire school day without your cell phone. For us, as North Penn High School students, this is unimaginable, but for thousands of North Penn middle schoolers, this is their reality.

As was reported in The Knight Crier back in September, all three North Penn School District middle schools took a drastic measure this school year, and banned cell phone use in classrooms, hallways, and the cafeteria. For the first few weeks, the discipline was relatively lenient, but now, there is a well enforced, tiered policy for students who are caught on their phones.

“So what we do is we actually send an email out. We have a standard email, and what I do is literally just replace the name of the student, and send that home to their parents. After that, a referral is written, the phone will be taken and kept until the end of the day. For the third infraction, the phone is taken again, they get two detentions, and can again pick their phone up at the end of the day. Fourth infraction, the phone is confiscated, and a Saturday school is given, then the parent has to come in for it. Any further infractions after that, we aren’t really talking about technology anymore, we’re talking about insubordination. A suspension could result from that.” voiced Penndale assistant principal Jason Bashaw.

Teachers and administrators were skeptical of how successful these changes would be at first, but, shockingly, the transition has gone (mostly) without a hitch.

“I have to be honest with you, I am a little bit surprised that they took it so well, but all in all, it overwhelmingly appears that the students have taken it so well. And you know they have the Chromebooks, so I think some of the things we used to do on the phones, now the Chromebooks take over for that.”, said Penndale history teacher Regina Kelly.

Kelly teaches 8th graders, so I wondered if there was any tangible difference with Penndale ninth graders, since they have been used to cell phones being tolerated for their first two years in middle school. Almost unbelievably, they as well have taken the policy (for the most part) in stride.

Some kids will always want to try and get away with breaking the rules no matter what those rules are, but others don’t really seem to mind.  It has been a welcomed change in the classroom for sure. No phones on the desks and no kids texting and being distracted by them during class.  That has been a great improvement!” expressed 9th Grade history teacher Deanna Bratina.

To be clear, however, the 2017-2018 school year was not abnormally bad, and certainly not the lone cause for this change in policy.

“It’s been building for a while. It’s been building for a while and there’s been a lot of conversations with a lot of stakeholders; teachers, parents, administrators within the district. And when I say ‘building’, a lot of behaviors have changed since we went to this new policy. Our cyberbullying has dropped significantly, cause now if a kid wants to cyberbully, they’re bringing the phone out, the teachers are catching it right away. And the teachers know they will be supported and backed by the district and by the administration.” said Bashaw.

Although the majority of students obey the policy, it doesn’t mean that a majority of them agree with it.

It’s not that bad, but I think it’s really strict. Asking students to not be on their phones or have them visible can be dangerous if there is an emergency. I personally like knowing I can reach my parents throughout the day and they can reach me. I completely understand not having phones in class, but at lunch or in the hallways it’s a little ridiculous. All we do at lunch is eat and socialize with our friends. There shouldn’t be a reason we are not allowed on them.” articulated ninth grader Maddy Blizzard.

8th grade student athlete Maggie Schaeffer expressed “ Being a student athlete and involved in clubs, it was especially hard to communicate changes with my parents like practice or game cancellations, because I had to tell them really late in the day if there were changes in pick up times.”

Regardless of how the student body feels about the new policy, it seems like it will be sticking around for a while. If the policy remains so successful for the rest of the 2018-19 school year, who knows, maybe North Penn High School will follow in the middle schools’ footsteps.