411 on the Phone Policy Petition
Kelly Oleson, a Lovejoy parent, describes how the petition for a smarter cell phone policy for Lovejoy ISD came to be, “We are all working moms and dads with packed schedules and responsibilities. We rolled up our sleeves, and whether it was early in the morning or late at night, we just hashed it all out conversation by conversation, text by text, email by email until we got it done.” Regarding who penned the petition, Oleson replied, “We consider the 543 signers and counting to be the authors of the petition. I may have drafted it, but it reflects the perspective of many parents and we worked as a team on the front end as well.” The petition went live Mar. 18, 2019.
Answering what triggered the petition, Oleson said, “A large group of parents have been concerned about this for several years - many I already knew and many (who have kids older than mine) I now know because of the petition. Personally, I can remember being bothered about three years ago when I first learned that fifth and sixth graders were on their cell phones during lunch and recess instead of having the much needed peer to peer conversations, engagement and eye contact. We've had many conversations over the years but truly thought leadership would get a handle on it before our kids were old enough to attend Sloan Creek. Some of my close friends have sons and daughters entering fifth grade next year and the issue has not been resolved. We couldn't let another school year go by without doing something about it. Once you get to Sloan Creek and you are "in it", it is difficult to navigate the adjustment to fifth grade alone, much less challenge the district's cell phone policy and enforcement.” Oleson has a 9, 7 and 1 year old.
Amanda Blakenship helped craft the petition. She said, “I hope to create a better learning environment for our children; one without distraction is paramount.” She has a 3rd and 5th grader. Jennifer Cobb signed the petition. She said, “The main thing that bothers me about the current policy is that it is ok for the kids to have their phones at lunch. Kids will not choose what is best for them, but what is easiest. Shy children will find it easier to bury themselves in the phone and not build relationships. Lunch time should be about forming social connections.” She also pointed out that studies have proven that looking at a phone while eating can lead to unhealthy conditions such as obesity. Cobb has children in the 1st and 4th grades. Lian Xu signed the petition because, “I believe cell phones have nothing to do with school work.” She voiced concerns that too much screen time is bad for their eyesight. She feels strongly that kids should take a break from screens during recess and enjoy playing. She has children in the 5th and 7th grades. Kevin Steed signed the petition because, “Phones are an addictive substance. I see how phones have impacted my life. Kids in school should not have the stress and anxiety of always having to be connected to their phones. I want to protect our kids from that environment as long as possible. Another concern I have is cyberbullying. We are not saying no to phones at school; just use them at the designated time.” He feels the policy outlined in the petition will allow teachers not to have to police phone usage during class time. He has a 3rd and 4th grader.
Oleson explains the major differences between the policies in place and what they are requesting in the petition, “The policies that were posted are not being enforced. This petition has seemingly brought attention to an enforcement issue. Students have cell phones in classes, lunch and recess. In the classroom, some teachers ask them to store them but most do not - many have told us they either weren't aware they could or feared backlash if they did because SCIS advertises being a "powered up" school. Parents and teachers have shared with us instances of failing grades tied to phone overuse/distraction, cheating, exposure to graphic content, and more. We are asking them to be powered off and away for the day including lunch and recess. We are also asking for the policy to be enforced.”
The opening paragraph of the petition states, “We believe the Lovejoy ISD staff, leadership and parents all greatly value our students’ potential for academic excellence, social emotional well-being and character development. Together, as a Lovejoy community, we fully support the tenants of the Lovejoy graduate: a student who is intellectually equipped, open to the challenges of learning, well-rounded, engaged in a healthy lifestyle, fair and respectful of others, and works for justice in the community.” The petition cites 10 works of research covering the topic of the effects of cell phone use and how they directly relate to the tenants of the Lovejoy graduate.
Oleson describes the benefits she feels students will reap if the proposed policy is implemented, “We believe asking 5th - 8th graders to keep their phones powered off and put away for the day, including lunch, recess, locker room and free time will reduce classroom distractions, provide a safer learning environment, foster a classroom that is more respectful to teachers, decrease the temptation and opportunity to cheat, reduce instances where students are exposed to graphic content and pornography, encourage social connection and conversations with peers, enrich outdoor recess time, reduce instances of cyberbullying during school hours, improve grades and overall academic performance, positively combat depression and anxiety, build character and communication skills, help them practice critical thinking as well as thinking ahead/planning, encourage self-sustainability and help students rely on parents less for tasks they are old enough to handle.”
Following is the answer Dr. Dennis Womack, LISD Interim Superintendent provided for the question ‘Once a petition of this nature has been received by LISD, what protocol is
followed?’: “The Board of Trustees encourages the public to discuss concerns with an appropriate administrator who has the authority to address the concerns. The administration takes every inquiry objectively to ensure policies and procedures are aligned with the greater community which we serve. The administration also assesses the consensus feedback of the community through surveys and other potential avenues and to provide updates to the Board accordingly.”
Dr. Womack provided the following timeline if it is determined that the requests made in the petition will be implemented: The current timeline for addressing community concerns regarding student cell phone use in Lovejoy schools is as follows: Fri., Mar. 29 - A survey will be sent to Lovejoy educators regarding the existing cell phone policy, barriers to implementation, student discipline, recommendations, etc. The survey responses will be due by Apr. 5. Apr. 12 - Based on the information collected from Lovejoy educators, a survey will be sent to parents of elementary, intermediate, middle and high school students regarding student use of cell phones, data plans, parental expectations for their student(s), the district’s existing policy, and recommendations. The survey responses will be due by Apr. 19. Apr. 30 - Complete district analysis of the data collected from the parent surveys to determine misalignment with the existing policy, and consider parent recommendations for improvement. Depending on the survey results, a parent information/feedback meeting may be scheduled on proposed changes with the goal of reaching consensus prior to the end of the school year. July/August - The Lovejoy ISD administration team will take the Student Code of Conduct to the Board of Trustees for review and adoption. Because 2019 is a legislative year, there will likely be several updates based on the legislative session that may require an August board adoption. We will continue to keep the community updated through Email Express.
To read the petition visit https://goo.gl/forms/d8Jk0B6jYFPEOOmY2. Oleson said she encourages Lovejoy parents in favor of a smarter cell phone policy and enforcement plan to add their name to the growing list of supporters.
You can read the entire LISD cell phone policy for all of the campuses here: https://www.lovejoyisd.net/apps/pages/index.jsp?uREC_ID=388608&type=d&pREC_ID=881733.