A Greater Victoria middle school student who initiated a protest amongst his peers following the announcement of a new cell phone policy said he wanted students to be included in decisions that impact them.
An e-mail sent to parents at Dunsmuir Middle School in Colwood on Feb. 12 cited studies that said cell phones can have a negative impact on academic performance, concentration, social and emotional well-being and self-regulation.
The same e-mail also said a new cell phone and digital policy will be coming into effect in March. The policy would limit personal mobile device use to before and after school, during instructional time for educational purposes as directed by the teacher, for health or medical purposes or as assistive technology.
Devices including laptops, chrome books and headphones would also have to be turned off and stored in student lockers at all times including during recess and lunch.
On Thursday, videos posted on Instagram showed Dunsmuir students protesting the new policy, calling it a “phone ban.”
Colleen Spier said her son, Jaiden, initiated the protest out of concern about the new cell phone policy. She said she asked him why he started the protest and he said he felt it was important that students are included in decisions that affect them.
“I started the protest because I felt that phones shouldn’t be banned at school,” Jaiden said. “Although phones may be used for bullying and can be abused during class, I believe we should still be able to use them during breaks, lunch or when instructed by teachers, but at least during breaks though.”
The vice principal of the school instructed Jaiden to start a petition instead as a more effective way to get the point across. The petition garnered more than 350 signatures from students at the school.
“I’m hoping to achieve the use of phones in school as learning tools and during breaks for entertainment,” he said.
Spier said she thinks the incident has taught her son a “valuable lesson in advocating when you feel there is an injustice.”
She said she appreciates the vice principal suggesting a petition which was less disruptive than protests and still empowered students to have a voice without condemning protests, a constitutionally protected right.
“I hope the school reconsiders their new cell phone policy and negotiates a more flexible arrangement with the students who need reassurance their voices matter,” Spier said.
According to the e-mail, staff are reviewing the policy over the next few days “to assist students in adjusting” to it. There will be grade group meetings to review it.
On March 2, the school-wide policy is to come into effect and students will be given warnings and reminders to store their phones in their lockers. The full policy comes into effect on March 30.