The below was originally an email sent to board members. After the email was Open Records Requested by a local reporter, the decision was made for Austin to have their voice heard first.
I am certain that you are all aware of the fights that have occurred at Iroquois High School in the past several weeks.
Last Monday, at our principal’s request, several resource teachers and administrators from the district came to visit our school. If you blinked, you might have missed them. They were barely in our building long enough to check the boxes on their forms before they left, back to Van Hoose to let us in the classroom know what it is we are doing wrong from their cubicles on high.
The observers came after students had arrived for the day, and left before the second lunch block even began. Not deigning to stay long enough to observe upper classmen leave lunch. They did not observe behaviors during the last two periods of the day, when all veteran educators know behaviors are worst, nor did they stay to observe dismissal.
If the district observers had stayed, perhaps they would have observed the miserable failure that is the district’s cell phone policy.
Teachers have been told that we are not allowed to take students phones away, and students know this and act accordingly. Without very strict classroom management skills, many teachers are struggling to keep their students engaged in their lessons and off of their phones.
Last year, a few classrooms at Iroquois piloted the use of Yondr pouches. These cut-proof pouches use magnetic locks, like those used in clothing stores, to secure student phones. Students get to keep their phones on their person, but since they are in the pouches they cannot use them. Although data shows that schools that use these pouches have increases in learning and decreases in suspensions, for some reason these were not implemented school wide this year.
Without the ability to ban cell phones, we are losing control of our students. Young teachers are especially struggling to cope with this epidemic.
When I ask my students what is causing fights, nine times out of ten, they are beginning online. Students are using social media to cyber bully each other and instigate fights.
Moreover, the ability to record and share these fights online only increases their popularity. The unbelievable amount of views, shares, and likes that fights garner online is encouraging students to instigate and engage in fights. The fight that occurred yesterday has already gained over 100,000 views on Facebook. Students are emboldened by this, hoping to gain as many likes, shares, and views as possible, knowing that it will increase their reputation.
Students have always engaged in fighting, but the frequency with which it is occurring this year is something that I have not yet witnessed in my four years of teaching and my three years at Iroquois. I truly believe that absent a true phone policy with real consequences, students will continue to plan, record, and share fights online, all the while missing out on valuable instruction time and endangering themselves and others.