Lewiston Middle School eighth-grader Hayelom Abraham, left, laughs while having lunch with friends Monday and talking about the stricter enforcement of the cellphone ban. Students and teachers said no cellphone use during the day means more student focus in class.
LEWISTON — As Lewiston Middle School eighth-grader Cielo Escobar, 13, ate lunch Monday, she said she wished she could use her cellphone during school hours, but admitted the ban is better for learning.
“It helps us focus more because we don’t want to check our phones as much.”
Lilly Gish, 12, agreed.
Cellphones are “not a distraction anymore,” she said.
While there was a ban last year, it wasn’t uniformly enforced, teachers Chris Roy and Joshua Daigle said. One teacher might allow student to use a phone in the back of a classroom; another, not at all.
“Now rules are consistent with all teachers,” Roy said.
This year’s stricter enforcement of the ban is working, students, teachers and administrators said. Since students are not thinking about who just sent them a text or Instagram, they are more focused in class.
The new policy has won praise from teachers and parents, Principal Jana Mates said. “All the feedback I’ve gotten from adults has been positive.”
A stricter cellphone ban was launched this fall to help curb negative student social media postings during school.
After the suicide of a student in May, there was inappropriate and troubling social media misuse at school, officials said.
The new policy says the first time a student is seen using their cellphone, a verbal warning is given. The second offense results in a student losing their phone for the day. For a third offense, the phone is taken away and a parent is called to retrieve it.
There have been first warnings, teachers said.
“I know of a handful of second warnings,” Mates said. But so far she’s not aware of any third offenses.
The staff did a good job explaining to students why cellphone use won’t be allowed “because kids were being mean on social media,” and it takes away from learning, Mates said.
Posters promoting the ban are prominent on the front doors, in the lobby and throughout the school.
As students enter each morning, staff are near the doors greeting them, Mates said. Students with cellphones out are told to put them away.
When a student sneaks use of their phone, “we have a conversation,” Mates said.
Students interviewed were well aware of the new policy.
Trevor Pineau, 13, Trey Frank, 13, Hayelom Abraham, 13, and Malyshia Powell, 12, said the ban is a good idea.
“Because when people have phones at school, they’re going to be getting in trouble,” Abraham said. “Stuff can happen at school.”
Most students leave their phones in their backpacks, said Durim Qahalliu, 13, who said his phone stays turned off in his backpack.
“If they do start going through their bag, teachers are going to see,” Qahalliu said.
Some students said they didn’t think the ban will cut down on mean social media posts. “Because as soon as they get home, they still bring the ideas they had at school home,” Frank said.
Eighth-grade health teacher Lisa Chasse was more optimistic. From what she’s seen and heard, she’s hopeful the policy will reduce bullying and mean messages.
Now “kids are talking. They’re not texting,” Chasse said. If students have something to say, “they say it. They aren’t texting other kids, taking pictures, instagrams or bullying.”
And, students are spending less time in the bathroom, where last year, they’d use their phones.
“Now, they don’t go to the bathroom as much,” Chasse said. “They’re in their seats more. They’re not hiding. They’re paying attention.” Those improvements “give me goose bumps.”
Each classroom has a phone with an outside line to call parents. Each student has a laptop, Daigle said, adding cellphones are “a nuisance. This is one less thing a teacher to worry about.”
Posters informing Lewiston Middle School students they cannot use their cellphones in school are on front doors and posted throughout the school. Teachers and students said the stricter enforcement of the cellphone ban is helping students stay more focused on studies.
Lewiston Middle School eighth-grader Cielo Escobar, left, listens to classmate Lily Gish, right, talk about her experiences with the ban on cellphone use at the school during lunch in the cafeteria Monday.