Are cellphones a major distraction for students or an invaluable resource for education? It’s a question being asked by many in light of the recent decision by the Quebec government to ban cellphones in classrooms.
In August 2023, Quebec’s Minister of Education, Bernard Drainville, announced that the government would be implementing a directive to ban cellphones in all public elementary and secondary classrooms beginning on Dec. 31, 2023.
The directive does offer some flexibility for teachers to include cellphones or other personal devices for pedagogical purposes.
By Dec. 31, schools must have made a policy detailing specific parameters for cellphone use on campus.
The Low Down has seen the policies in place at three regional secondary schools: St. Michael’s in Low, Hadley Junior & Philemon-Wright in Hull, and Des Lacs in Masham.
Here’s how each institution is handling the challenging task of managing teenagers’ cellphone use during the school day.
St. Mike’s and Hadley Junior & Philemon-Wright
Although there are very slight variations between their policies, for the most part St. Mike’s and Hadley Junior & Philemon-Wright, which are both part of the Western Quebec School Board, have a nearly identical approach to dealing with cellphone use in school.
Both schools offer exceptions to the ban, including if teachers require personal devices to be used during a lesson; if a cellphone or other personal device is deemed necessary for a student’s health; or to accommodate a student’s special learning needs.
At both schools, departments are responsible for deciding what constitutes appropriate use of a personal device for educational purposes.
If a student needs to have a phone or other device with them for health reasons, it is up to parents to contact administrators to arrange this.
At St. Mike’s, a student’s special needs are determined by the content of their Individual Education Plan, whereas at Hadley Junior & Philemon-Wright parents need to make a request to administrators for accommodation.
Consequences for inappropriate cellphone use at both schools include: a warning for the first offence; a 25-minute detention for the second; a 50-minute detention and a note home to parents for the third; a 50-minute detention and one hour of community service for the fourth; and a one-day suspension for the fifth offence.
Hadley Junior & Philemon-Wright’s policy states that devices used without permission will be confiscated and remain in the office for the remainder of the school day.
St. Mike’s policy states that students must have their phones turned off and kept in their pockets unless given express permission otherwise.
Des Lacs Secondary School
“At Des Lacs Secondary School, the possession and use of personal electronic devices [including smartwatches and listening devices] is prohibited in the classroom during class hours. Students must place their devices in their locker before coming to class,” the school’s cellphone policy states, according to regional school service centre communication’s director Maude Hébert.
A modification to the rule of conduct was added on Jan. 15 stating, “However, an electronic device may be permitted when use is required by the educational intervention methods taken by the teacher, by the state of health of a student or by the particular needs of a student with disabilities or who is struggling.”
Hébert did not disclose consequences for students who break the rule. Unlike the policies at St. Mike’s and Hadley Junior & Philemon-Wright, Des Lacs does not appear to outline the procedure for determining when cellphone use is considered necessary for a student’s health or to assist a student’s special educational needs.