Changes to Bellarmines Cell Phone Policy?

There have been ongoing talks about changing Bellarmine’s cell phone policy that would take effect at the start of next year’s school year, 2020-2021. It may surprise many of you to learn, but Bellarmine does, in fact, have an existing cell phone policy. However it does not get strictly enforced. Currently, the student body handbook states, ‘Cell phones may be brought to the Bellarmine school zone area or for school activity under the following conditions: they may not be used for picture taking/video recording without consent, Cyberbullying will not be tolerated… All non-academic uses of electronic devices are prohibited in academic buildings and the Chapel. This includes, but is not limited to, game playing, social networking sites, and video sharing sites’ ‘ (2019-2020 Student Handbook-Planner 42). As a student body, I think we all agree that Bellarmine does not enforce the non-academic use of phones on campus rule. A walk through any academic building will only highlight this, as you will find a multitude of students on their cell phones and devices, on social media and/or playing games. To be fair, the student handbook doesn’t outline enforcement of these rules. On occasion, a teacher may ask a student to stop playing a game in an academic building, but we have to admit, these encounters are rare. Over the past few years, there have been discussions regarding possible new policies that could be implemented, in order to “improve” students’ use of a cell phone during the school day. Many students are wondering about the new policy and how it will be enforced. Currently we, at the Bell Online, do not have these concrete answers, but we can look at how other schools manage the student use of cell phones. Who knows, maybe our “new and improved” cell phone policy might look like another school’s policy?

Bell Online Reporter’s Peter Ly ‘23 and Alex Clark ‘20 spoke with current Archbishop Mitty student Kate Robbins ‘21. The first question we asked was, ‘What is the baseline cell phone policy at your school?’ Kate said, “Cell phone use on campus is prohibited when class is in session. We are only allowed to use them before and after school.” After that question, we wanted to know what the punishment was for breaking the rules, she replied, “If you get caught, a teacher will take it to the dean’s office and you will get detention which entails picking up trash for an hour after school or having written detention. You also do not get your phone until the end of the day.” Archbishop Mitty seems to have a firm stance on no cell phones allowed on campus and this quite possibly could influence Bellarmine in following suit and creating a similar policy.

Following that we also talked to Senior at Saint Francis High School, Rachel Clark (no relation), we wanted to know about the basic cell phone policy on campus, if you are allowed to have them visible on campus or out at lunch, the punishment (if any), and who enforces the policy. Rachel responded with the following, “Technically phones are supposed to be off and away the moment you step on campus. Most people keep them in their back pockets and don’t get in trouble. Occasionally in class, a teacher will condone cell phone use for a project, but we cannot use them at breaks or at lunchtime.” She then describes what happens when you are caught using your phone, “Depending on the teacher they might just tell you to put it away, but most likely you would get it taken away and detention would ensue. Only after detention will you be able to get your cell phone back. And the dean and the teachers enforce the cell phone rules.” This policy seems to resemble the one Mitty instituted, as no cell phones are permitted on campus. It seems that most of the other private schools have taken a rigid stance on the use of mobile phones. Bellarmine appears to be the last school with more relaxed rules, however, let’s take a look at one last school before we make our conclusion.

The last high schooler we interviewed, Shelby Page ‘20 comes from Leigh High School in San Jose. Their take on the cell phone policy closely mirrors what Bellarmine currently has. When we asked her the cell phone rules at Leigh, she responded, “We can use them any time really and there are no rules about using them at lunch or during breaks. Some classes have “phone hotels” where we put our phones during class but most classes do not. In the classes without them, there are people who definitely use their phones during class, some teachers care and some don’t. The punishment system happens in tiers. The first punishment sees the teacher telling you to put it away. If the phone is used again, the teacher takes it away and keeps it for the day. Then after that, the teacher will send the phone to the assistant principal and they phone home to your parents to come and pick it up.” This policy seems to be the most relaxed of all the schools we talked to and maybe even more relaxed then Bellarmine’s. I’m sure most Bellarmine students would like to adopt this type of policy, but I really think it will not look like this next year.

In the end, only time will tell as to where our school will look to take their cell phone policy. There have been talks about no visible phones on campus policy, which appears to resemble something like Saint Francis’ or Mitty’s. We will have to wait until next school year to see the new policy and the challenges it might bring to students. Hopefully, when we return to classes on campus this policy will be embraced by the student body.

Go Bells!