Editorial: Parent voices needed in Bring Your Own Device discussion

Parents will soon have their say in whether Carroll County Public Schools should continue with its Bring Your Own Device policy for elementary school students or make modifications to it.

A recent survey of teachers and administrators seemed to reveal what many already suspected: Portable electronic devices are not being used regularly in the classrooms for instructional purposes. This is due, at least it part, to not every student bringing a device. Teachers have told us in the past that if not every student has a device, those devices will not be incorporated into the lesson plan.


However, school officials also report that young students having devices are not causing any significant disruption issues in the classroom. “I’ve not gotten one call … from a principal about this issue,” Dana Falls, director of student services told the school board. “If you’re looking for a discipline issue, the data’s not there.”

From a learning standpoint, it doesn’t seem as if the BYOD policy is having a significantly negative effect, but there isn’t a clear positive impact either.

Most students, it seems, are bringing devices — primarily cellphones — as a safety precaution so they can contact parents in case of an emergency, or vice versa. In this day and age, it’s hard to fault parents too much for wanting to be connected to their child.

Both a majority of administrators (83 percent) and teachers (58 percent) who responded to the survey supported continuation of the current policy. Like the Board of Education, though, we want to hear from parents first before deciding everything is fine.

The BYOD policy for the elementary school level was developed during the 2014-15 school year, when it was initially rolled out as a pilot program at six elementary schools and eventually adopted systemwide. It allows third- through fifth-grade students to bring their own approved devices to school.

While there are limits on when they can be used in the classroom, there is more freedom for students to use them during recess, in the cafeteria at lunch time, or on school buses. The decision to take another look at the policy was spurred by a parent who told the Board of Education her third-grader viewed an R-rated movie her seatmate on the school bus was watching on her device.

Regarding classroom usage, perhaps nothing needs to change. Parents who feel compelled to send a cellphone with their son or daughter in case of an emergency would be able to do so, and in cases where use of the technology may be applicable to the lesson and all students are able to do so, there seems to be no harm.

Of course, there should still be consequences for using the devices inappropriately during instructional time and, perhaps, if parents agree, the school system should more strongly consider limiting usage during lunch and recess to encourage more social interaction and physical activity among students.

As it relates to issues on the school bus, perhaps use of devices on the vehicles could be banned outright, which could limit inappropriate usage and viewings by other kids. However, this would admittedly be difficult to enforce and we don’t want to burden bus drivers with monitoring device usage when they should be concentrating on the road.

Hopefully, however, when the BOE reaches out to parents of younger students, they will take the time to respond and offer useful feedback to make sure, whatever the policy is, it is a good fit for all involved.