FCCPTA Urges FCPS to Update Cell Phone Policy

Update: In response to our letter (below), FCPS Leadership issued the following guidance to principals in August 2019:

“In response to a request from the Fairfax County Council of PTA’s (and others) to implement consistent student cell phone restrictions in our schools, we are recommending the following guidelines to all schools. Some schools may have more prescriptive rules, but these recommended best practices are intended to serve as a consistent minimum set of guidelines. Please communicate your school’s guidelines with staff, students and parents at the beginning of the school year.

FCPS recommends the following tiered structure of cell phone restrictions, which recognizes the age ability of students to use their cell phones wisely.

  • Elementary School– Phones must be silenced and in backpacks for the duration of the school day. They may be utilized on campus only before and after school. Teachers may allow usage of cell phones for instructional activities where they are the most appropriate tool, such as video creation or QR Code activities.
  • Middle School– Phones must be silenced and kept put away for the duration of the school day. Storage may be in a locker, backpack, pencil bag, etc. during the day. Teachers may allow cell phone usage in their classrooms at their discretion with the support of the administration. Cell phones may be used on campus before the first bell and after the last bell.
  • High School– Phones must be silenced and kept put away during all instructional periods. Storage may be in a locker, backpack, pencil bag, etc. during classes. Teachers may allow cell phone usage in their classrooms at their discretion, with the support of the administration. Cell phones may be used on campus before the first bell, after the last bell, during passing periods and lunches.

Confiscation of cell phones is not recommended if students violate these guidelines; referrals are recommended instead.

We appreciate how supportive the PTAs have been and hope that the information will be helpful to all parents.”

Read our letter here:

May 29, 2019

Superintendent Scott Brabrand

Assistant Superintendent Sloan Presidio

Assistant Superintendent Maribeth Luftglass

Dear Dr. Brabrand, Dr. Presidio and Ms. Luftglass,

Classrooms are for learning, not:

  • Texting
  • Gaming
  • Shopping
  • Cyber-bullying
  • Viewing pornography.

Yet these things happen every hour of every school day in classrooms throughout the County. The reason? An FCPS culture that turns a blind eye to the cell phones students bring into class.

Fairfax County Council PTA’s Executive Board urges you to enact a systemwide, consistent policy to restrict non-academic use of cell phones in classrooms, starting August 2019, and to include this policy in the SR&R being finalized in June.

What would this policy look like? The answer can be found with teachers who have already taken control of this issue. Some teachers use common-sense solutions such as hanging clear shoe organizers where students place their phones during class, or providing large baskets for the same purpose. When a teacher wants students to use phones for classroom purposes, or as a reward, s/he can simply give permission. In case of emergency circumstances, the phones are in the room with the students, who can still be in touch with their parents.

Our position on this issue isn’t new. We began seeking information from FCPS about restricting cell phones in classrooms one year ago. In our Fall 2018 Education Survey of parents and teachers, 3,910 respondents weighed in on this issue. When asked about cell phones at school, an overwhelming 70% of people favored restrictions on their use, compared to 18% of respondents who favored a ban, and seven percent who favored unlimited cell phone use. 

We believe you’ve already considered such action. During a presentation by Dr. Presidio and Ms. Luftglass, our Executive Board was told that with FCPSOn going live in all high schools next year, students would no longer need cell phones in the classroom. This good news leads us to believe a basis exists to restrict cell phone use in high school classrooms. We ask that you also address cell phone use among our younger and more vulnerable populations at the middle and elementary levels with a single policy for all grade levels.

This issue is so important to the Council that it will appear on the candidate questionnaire we provide to School Board candidates in June.

FCCPTA’s mission is to help every child reach his or her potential.  The effects of widespread ownership and use of mobile phones by children is known, documented and researched. Could there be any reason to continue allowing these devices to undermine instruction, distract students, promote negative behavior and allow unhealthy choices in the classroom? Unchecked use of cell phones in classrooms thwarts children’s potential to connect, focus and learn. We are eager to see change and look forward to your response. 

Thank you for your leadership and dedication to our children.

Sincerely,

Jane Miscavage

President

cc: FCPS School Board: Karen Corbett Sanders, Chair, Karen Keys-Gamarra, Ryan McElveen, Ilryong Moon, Megan McLaughlin, Jane Strauss, Pat Hynes, Tamara, Derenak Kaufax, Sandy Evans, Dalia Palchik, Elizabeth Schultz, Thomas Wilson