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Charles City Middle School cracks down on cellphones, hooded sweatshirts and hats

  • The administration at Charles City Middle School recently announced to students and parents that policies regarding cellphones, hooded sweatshirts, and hats will be more strictly enforced, starting this week. The bottom line is, no more cellphone use during the school day, no hats, hoodies down.

  • The administration at Charles City Middle School recently announced to students and parents that policies regarding cellphones, hooded sweatshirts, and hats will be more strictly enforced, starting this week. The bottom line is, no more cellphone use during the school day, no hats, hoodies down.

By James Grob, jgrob@charlescitypress.com

If you’re a Charles City Middle School student, that all-important text message you need to send is just going to have to wait until after school.

And you better take off that hat, too.

The administration at Charles City Middle School recently announced to students and parents that policies regarding cellphones, hooded sweatshirts and hats will be more strictly enforced, starting this week.

The bottom line is, no more cellphone use during the school day, no hats, hoodies down.

“We realized that a lot of our kids were spending way too much time on their screen, both in and out of school,” said Tom Harskamp, associate principal at Charles City Middle School. “We had some grade levels where we allowed phones at lunch, and just from our observations, we decided we wanted to make a shift.”

Harskamp said one of the main reasons for the shift is just to get students away from their screens.

“Another reason is just to encourage more social interaction,” he said. “We’ve seen, just in two days, a big turnaround in that regard.”

The policies were already in place and codified in the student handbook, but the school will now focus on enforcing them after receiving feedback from parents, staff and students. The district said in a letter to parents last week that it felt the change would be appropriate and best for all students. The enforcement policy began on Monday and “will be the expectation for the 2019-2020 school year and beyond.”

“We just want to cut down on the social media they’re attached to, so we’re limiting that on our watch,” Harskamp said. “They’re going to have as much time outside of school as their parents allow, but here at the school, we can keep it apart from the school day.”

Harskamp said the changes were made very clear to the students last week.

“I went around to each grade level and had a meeting with all the students in one setting, so they all heard it from me,” he said.

Specifically, the policy states that cellphones must be turned off and kept in a locker from 8:10 a.m. to 3:10 p.m. This includes Bluetooth earbuds or any type of headphones. Parents who need to contact their child at school are instructed to send an email or call the main office to do so.

“It’s already been commented to me by teachers walking through the commons area, about how it’s awesome to see the students talking and not glued to a phone,” Harskamp said.

The school outlined the consequences for student noncompliance with the phone policy.

For a first violation, the phone is confiscated and the student may pick it up at the end of the day at the middle school office. The incident will be documented by secretaries. For a second violation, the phone is confiscated and a parent is notified, and the parent will be able to pick up the phone at the middle school office.

For a third violation, the phone is confiscated, the parent is notified, and the parent will need to pick up the phone at the superintendent’s office.

Through the first two days of enforcement, Harskamp said a handful of students have had their phones confiscated already.

“I think some of it is, they’ve forgotten that we were actually going to do it,” he said. “We’ll have some that will push the envelope a little bit and want to keep their phones on them, but we’ll deal with those as they come.”

At this point, the policy is not clear regarding Apple Watches and other mobile devices that can connect to phones or access cellular service on their own, but Harskamp said the school will deal with those issues as they arise. He said that about 1% of students at the middle school use that type of technology.

“We haven’t addressed it yet, but it is something people are aware of,” he said. “If it does become a problem, we’ll pull those kids aside and address it as needed.”

Harskamp said that there are teachers who occasionally have students use their cellphones as a part of learning, and that a lot of innovative lessons can be taught using cellphones. In those cases, a teacher can give a student a pass.

“We’ve communicated that to the teaching staff,” Harskamp said.

As to the expectations for students wearing hooded sweatshirts and hats, hoods are required to remain down and hats must remain off during the school day, from 8:10 a.m. to 3:10 p.m. Students who do not follow this policy will not be allowed to wear hooded sweatshirts, and hats will be confiscated and parents will be notified.

“The hoodies and the hats goes back to old school respect for the building and respect for public buildings,” Harskamp said. “This educates kids on that, because that’s not really common knowledge anymore. Plus, we want to see your face, we want to say hello, we want to know who is walking our halls.”

Harskamp said the policy also relates to skills students learn for future employability.

“I can’t walk into my job with earbuds in and my hoodie up and be very productive,” he said. “We want to see kids engaging their peers, with their hoodies down — if your hoodie is up, you’re kind of closed to what’s going on around you.”

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