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Seneca Valley welcomes and encourages students and staff to utilize technology as a supplemental resource for learning (when appropriate and in a positive manner). However, it has become evident that use of cell phones and other personal electronic communication devices have become more of a deterrent to the overall successful engagement of academics while in school. Additionally, scientific studies confirm that cell phone and social media use among adolescents is addictive and negatively impacts their wellbeing. 

As part of our mission, we will continue to enhance the teaching of responsible digital citizenship at every grade level. Additionally, staff in each building are regularly reviewing and editing the curriculum as well as capitalizing on opportunities to reach more students regarding appropriate and safe use of personal communication devices. 

All District parents/guardians and staff were also encouraged to join us in this important effort by attending an FBI/Police presentation this past spring on the “Dangers of Tech,” and to take part in a ThoughtExchange where we collected their input – along with our students in grades 5-12 – on smartphones/devices in the school environment. 

District officials took an important additional step when, in April 2023, the Seneca Valley School Board unanimously agreed to join a multi-district lawsuit to hold social media platforms accountable for the direct targeting of adolescents through algorithms, which has caused detrimental effects to mental health. The District also seeks accountability by these platforms anytime their own policies and community standards are violated but not addressed when identified by school officials. These points and others were made when the Seneca Valley School Board first passed a resolution in October 2022, highlighting the need for additional safeguards to protect our children online. 

Lastly, we supplemented the topic and supported building-level learning with the development of a Superintendent Advisory Committee of Personal Technology. This group of stakeholders, which included parents, teachers, support staff and administrators, met in the 2022-23 school year to discuss their growing concerns and the potential safeguards needed to address the increased use and dependency of teens and cell phones/social media.

The natural next step after these collective efforts is to act on student use of cell phone/personal electronic device during the school day. Therefore, the School Board approved a policy update earlier this month that includes changes to the procedures and consequences regarding device use while in school (Policy #237). This will take effect in August with the 2023-24 school year.

Student Use of SmartPhone/Personal Electronic Devices - Expectations and Boundaries: 
Student smartphones or other personal electronic communication devices (“devices”) may come to school but must be stowed on your person and out of sight or stored in a locker or backpack. Teachers will have the discretion to utilize a storage system for devices for students to store their devices in the classroom. These items may not be used unless there is an emergency or at the teachers’ discretion for instructional purposes. The use of any electronic device is strictly prohibited in bathrooms and locker rooms. Because students have such a wide developmental range, grades K-12, appropriate building-level rules have been developed and are as follows:

  • For grades K-6, devices or smart watches may not be used in the cafeteria during lunch, in the hallways or other non-instructional areas. 
  • For grades 7-8, devices or smart watches may be used in the cafeteria during lunch, but may not be used in the hallways or other non-instructional areas. 
  • For grades 9-12, devices or smart watches may be used in the cafeteria during lunch, in the hallways and in other non-instructional areas.
  • For extracurricular activities, device or smart watch use is discouraged but will be left to the discretion of the coach or sponsor. 

Consequences:
The following expectations, grades K-12, will be provided in the student handbook and the SV Portal to which students and parents will sign-off on prior to the beginning of the school year. Information may also be provided during “welcome back” assemblies to students and parents/guardians. Teachers will also include information in their individual classroom plans/procedures:

  • First offense – Devices will be sent to the main office for student to pick up at the end of the school day. The parent/guardian will be notified.
  • Second offense - Devices will be sent to the main office for student to pick up at the end of the school day. The parent/guardian will be notified. Additionally, students will be seen in the main office to review the policy and will lose their device for one school day. 
  • Third offense – Parent/Guardian will be required to pick up the device from the main office. Additional discipline may be assigned and can result in consequences which range from detention to in-school suspension at the secondary (grades 7-12) level, and lunch detention to in-school suspension at the elementary (grades K-6) level.
  • Each subsequent offense or refusal to surrender personal device – This will result in parent pick up of the device and a review of the policy with the student. Progressive discipline will take place at this level and depend on the scope and number of policy violations.