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SD5 to look at digital device policy following new provincial guidance


The Southeast Kootenay school district will likely be looking at tweaking existing policies regulating cell phones in schools following updated guidance issued by the province on Jan. 26.

Since 2005, the district has had a policy regulating cell phones and digital devices that was last updated in 2021, however, the BC government’s measures recently announced will focus on restricting cell phone usage in schools, launching services to remove images from the internet and pursue predators and legislation to hold social media companies to account.

Currently, according to SD5 policy, the use of cell phones in classrooms is at the discretion of the instructor to be used for educational purposes.

The policy dictates that staff and students can have cell phones in classrooms but turned off or out of sight during class time, but can be used during non-instructional times such as lunch breaks.

However, as technology and it’s uses evolve, so must district policies, according to SD5 Safe Schools Coordinator Jason Tichauer, citing examples where students are using a smart phone to help monitor health metrics such as blood sugar levels.

“There are kids that, for example, do blood sugar testing on a cell phone on themselves, there are those types of pieces which are also acknowledged in the new government direction as well,” Tichauer said.

“It isn’t us creating a policy, it’s probably tweaking the policy a bit to cement what government is asking us to do a little more clearly.”

In a news release, the province noted the changes are driven by research showing the risks faced by youth, particularly through social media, and the harms associated body-image distortion, cyberbullying, images shared without consent, and sextortion.

“To be honest, we have lots of concerns about digital usage,” Tischauer continued. “As the safe schools coordinator, a lot of the inappropriate usage that I would deal with doesn’t necessarily happen in math class; it happens at 9 p.m. on a Friday night or 1 [a.m.] in the morning on a Saturday. This is part of a larger problem where students’ digital footprints are open and shareable.”

While the province has provided guidance, it will be up to individual school districts to create policies restricting cell phones in classes.

“Having cellphones in the classroom can be a distraction from the kind of focused learning we want kids to experience at school,” said Rachna Singh, Minister of Education and Child Care. “There also is a time and a place for cellphones, including when they support student accessibility purposes.

“By learning in a safe school environment how to use their cellphones responsibly and respectfully, including when to put them away, students will be better able to develop healthy habits around technology and social media use in their everyday lives.”

Trevor Crawley

About the Author: Trevor Crawley

Trevor Crawley has been a reporter with the Cranbrook Townsman and Black Press in various roles since 2011.
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