Lois Jarman, a member of the Frederick County Board of Education, wants to schedule a discussion of the school system’s policy on students and cellphones, with an eye toward severely restricting their use.

It is a legitimate issue for the board to consider, but it is going to be a difficult one to get widespread agreement on. Educators, parents and students all differ on the proper use of smartphones in school.

When the board begins grappling with the issue this fall, its members are likely to find it a challenge. A brief online search shows that schools have been seeking the right solution for more than 15 years, when far fewer students had access to cellphones.

American University’s School of Education reported last fall: “Nearly 75 percent of teens have access to a smartphone, and with open Wi-Fi networks in schools, libraries, and at home, staying connected is effortless.” The report said 94 percent of teens with a smartphone go online every day, often at school.

“Teachers already struggle with maintaining students’ attention during class, and with cellphones’ providing other ways to ‘escape’ the classroom, many teachers feel that students’ grades have declined as a result,” the AU report said.

But on the other hand, smartphones are incredible tools for finding information, from the correct spelling of a word to the capital of Syria. Teachers can share videos that help children better understand complex topics, such as scientific principles. Research has even shown that some children are better able to concentrate on assignments while listening to music playing through their phone.

Beyond students, parents love having easy access to their children throughout the day, to discuss changing schedules for doctor visits, hear about everyday problems or to confirm pickup times.

Of course, access to cellphones by students was of prime importance during the emergencies at schools such as lockdowns and — worst of all — shootings. Most parents will be loath to give up the ability to quickly contact their kids during a dangerous situation.

School board members said the current rules can vary greatly from school to school in the county. Jarman said she hopes her request will lead to a standard policy across the district, and that would be a reasonable solution.

But Jarman told our reporter that she wants to institute a policy similar to those recently adopted at Thurmont and West Frederick middle schools, requiring students to keep cellphones turned off and stored in the lockers or backpacks, a policy called “off and away.”

We are concerned that the policy, especially if implemented at the high school level, could go too far. One concern is that overly restrictive rules would lead students to subvert and ignore them, and that’s not the kind of behavior we want to encourage in our children. It also seems as though we would be punishing all students for the misdeeds of a few.

Phones should be silenced to avoid disrupting class and should be available to use only for legitimate functions. Teachers and principals should have the power to remove devices from students who are misusing them, but not completely ban them from the classroom.

The American University report warned: “As smart home devices emerge and wearable technologies become further integrated into our lives, we may be at a point where we can’t separate ourselves — and students — from technology.”

With a fast-evolving digital world, we need to harness its power, not try to outlaw it. Let’s try to write a new policy with that in mind.

(30) comments


This editorial must have been written by a middle or high school student.




Put phones in lockers at 8:30 AM. Pick phones back up at 3:30 PM at end of school day. Easy solution.

We did not have cell phones in the 1970s. Or 1980s. Or 1990s. And minimal in the 2000s. But somehow all the kids and parents survived.

Helicopter parents just need to realize they will be grounded during school hours. Once kids released from school, parents can do with them as they choose. But little Johnnie or Susie, whose cell phone goes off four times during the school day to talk to Mommy, is only hurting MY kids (and others) ability to learn.

All the resources our children need are present within the schools presently. Textbooks. Computers. Chromebooks. Libraries. Teachers.






Cell phones should be allowed in schools as long as they are turned off during class time. Only during actual emergencies should students be allowed to turn them on and use them. It's called common sense ... something Frederick County has lost in the last few years.


Who decides what is an emergency? To a kid, that could be I have to tell my friend something right NOW!


the FNP’s editorials are as deficient as their comment moderating


It sounds so easy, "take the phone away." Students refuse to give up their phones. "Oh," you say. "Write a referral." or "send them to the office." The admin talks to the student, student returns to class, same incident occurs the next day, and the next, and the next.


Why does it have to be ban or nothing. Why can't the teacher tell the class that when you're in this class, I don't want to see it or hear it. Put it away. I would have loved to have had a chance to record my math classes. I could have reviewed that instead of stumbling through the text book in the evening or staying after to talk to the teacher. Then there's the whole security thing as well. If you're being attacked in a bathroom, wouldn't it be nice to have a one button 911 at your finger tips?


Probably due to some over protective parents who have to be able to stay in contact with their child at all times. Parents call the school and will say "how dare the math teacher ask johnny to put his phone away, what if I have to text him about something"


I always had kids put their phones in a basket on my desk. Not much blowback


I am not sure a student would be allowed to record.


There is no need for a kid to have their phone attached 24/7. When in a learning environment you are there to learn. When I do training classes, I make the people in the room turn off their phones and put them away. If someone feels the need to pull out a phone, I tell them to leave. I have no problem with kids using them between classes, lunch or recess but not in the classroom.


yet another thing we agree on.


I thought all high school kids and most middle schoolers are given chromebooks or equivalent - that they can look stuff up on but not use certain web sites, social media or text. Doesn't this solve the issue??


Thank you. I was going to say the same thing. From the brilliant "Our View" editorial, "But on the other hand, smartphones are incredible tools..." blablabla. In addition and pertaining to the writer's opinion that the school board will have difficulty getting widespread agreement of banning personal devices during class time, based on the responses to the opinion piece, the vast majority of comments support harnessing the power of keeping these devices off while students are in class.


I've read some silly editorials in the FNP over the years but this one takes the cake. I fail to see how "off and away" will curb a students learning. Allowing a student access to his/her cell/smartphone at lunchtime is all one needs. Perhaps a day in a school watching teachers deal with this issue might enlighten your editorial staff as to the reality of the situation. You must live in a fantasy land.


Cell phones need to be turned off during classes. The only exception would be for emergencies.


Middletown used to have a policy where if you took your phone out in class and it was confiscated, a parent had to come in to retrieve it. Guarantee that it only happens once.


When I was a kid in the last century,a small hand held game suddenly took over the market- the classic Mattel hand held football. When they showed up at school during class time, they were told to be put away. If not, they got confiscated. What is the difference? You are either engaged as a student or you are not.


Teaching CCD, at Church, it was common to take toys away. They didn't have cell phones. Girls were always more attentive, less distracted than boys.

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Your usual nasty comment!

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Altar server (girls too) training is separate. This is catechism, often related to Mass topics.

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DickD - It wasn't meant to be nasty, it was a joke. Sorry you didn't find it funny


Rbt, I'm not even Christian, and I found that nasty.


Writer forgot to mention that students, if they have set up correct links and shortcuts, not only can they look up the capital of Poland, Turkey or Burma, they can be watching porn with just one or two taps. Now, which do you think they'll choose, Poland or porn? Turkey or teats? Burma or butts? Gee such tough decisions. Does the writer get anything?


Every teacher battles students every school day to put their phones away taking time away from both teaching and learning.




Shouldn’t be any “discussion” involved. A disruption in the classroom, kids tweeting, texting etc when they should be learning. Put ALL phones in “airplane” mode and leave in your bag/purse/pocket! If pulled out during class then it’s confiscated till the end of the class. Period!

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