Whitehall City Schools leaders believe there is a place for 21st-century technology, such as cellphones, in the classroom -- but only if regulated.

"Technology of any kind can either enhance the classroom experience or become a distraction," Superintendent Brian Hamler said.

To that end, the school district has an explicit policy concerning the use of cellphones during the school day but has not taken the step of prohibiting cellphones from classrooms.

The district's neighbor to the west, Bexley City Schools, recently updated its policy to require younger students to leave their cellphones in their lockers during class time.

The policy was announced June 3 and is effective as of the 2019-20 school year.

Bexley Middle School principal Jason Caudill said the policy stems from teachers' and administrators' observations over the past couple of years that students' cellphones have been a distraction.

"Students are having a hard time giving their full attention during class with the constant barrage of notifications and messaging," Caudill said. "Research has shown consistently that technology addiction is real and kids at this age are particularly susceptible. We want to empower our students to fully engage in learning, and we believe this policy will help place healthy boundaries to do so."

Under Bexley's new policy, elementary school students will be required to leave their cellphones in their lockers during the entire school day, whereas middle school and high school students may use their phones between classes, at lunch and during recess, Caudill said.

Similarly, Whitehall students also may use cellphones at designated times. According to Whitehall's district policy, "students may be allowed to possess pagers, cellular telephones (and other devices) ... as long as they are used in accordance with building regulations."

The district urges staff members and students to use electronics and "other 21st-century devices" to supplement instruction and learning, said Ty Debevoise, director of communications marketing for Whitehall schools, citing language in the district's student handbook that outlines relevant policy.

Students may not use devices during instruction time unless it is for an educational purpose and at the direction of the teacher, according to the policy, which also prohibits the use of devices during instruction time in areas outside classrooms, such as libraries or restrooms.

Although there is a need for such policy, Hamler said, the district focuses on pairing teachers and students "in their quest for knowledge."

"The drive to figure things out and to understand will instill an insatiable desire to learn, which is what we have always been striving for in education," Hamler said.

"Distractions have no chance in that kind of learning environment."

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"The drive to figure things out and to understand will instill an insatiable desire to learn, which is what we have always been striving for in education."

-- BRIAN HAMLER

Whitehall superintendent