New controversy over old policy

Senior Kate Sudarsky stares at her phone in school. —Ali Barlett

By Sophia McCarron and Danielle Hopkins

Principal Sara Dingledy has ushered in a new era of stability at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School. Upon her arrival, she began enforcing all policies in the student handbook, something that had been inconsistent with the constant changing of leadership.

One policy that has some students grumbling is that cell phones are not allowed out except between classes and at lunch. In the past the rule was frequently not enforced, and students would often check their phones in class, or even leave class and have their phones out in the hallway. Some even played video games during class time or in learning centers.

At the start of school, some students were upset with the enforcement of this rule. But many seem to have come around. Senior Cana Courtney said, “At first the phone policy seemed a bit much, and like she [Ms. Dingledy] was coming into our school and trying to change everything right off the bat. However I think in the end, the phone policy makes a lot of sense and has improved the classroom, which I think lot of my classmates agree with me on. The administration figured out that the only way to get students to pay attention in class with no distractions is to take away their phones. I understand the policy, even if I don’t always love it.”

Ms. Dingledy said, “I commend the students for taking my simple request and adjusting for it, especially since I know there was some initial unhappiness.”

Controlling when students can and can’t use their cell phones has also had some unexpected benefits. Assistant Principal Elliott Bennett said, “This time last year we already had three cyberbullying cases. This year we have had none.” The cause of the cyberbullying was that students were texting one another in class or taking videos of each other and uploading them on social media, which could cause social issues to spread faster.

Cutting down on cyberbullying is an added bonus, but the other stabilizing factor about Ms. Dingledy’s administration is that students can literally look up what is and is not against the rules. The student handbook is printed in the planners that every student receives on the first day of school. It is also online.

Junior Audrey McCarron said, “I do like that she’s following all of the written rules that we are supposed to follow, but some of the rules I don’t like.”

Senior Kylie Hatt agreed that she enjoyed Ms. Dingledy enforcing all of the rules in the handbook. “Ms. D has definitely brought more stability to this school, and I feel as though the school system and teachers have earned more respect from students because of her,” Kylie said.

However, many students have concerns about the enforcement of the phone policy in study halls. Sophomore Lollie Bezahler said, “People can actually study and learn by using their phones, so it’s annoying we aren’t allowed to use them in study hall. Music helps people concentrate, so they should be allowed to listen to it, maybe not during regular classes, but definitely in study halls.”

Sophomore Jason Davey agreed with the idea that phones should be allowed during a student’s free period. “I thought and still think it’s over the top, especially considering that I can actually do homework on my phone and/or use it as a resource. So the fact that there are no phones in study hall is kinda much in my opinion. We are allowed to use computers in study halls, and using a phone isn’t too different,” he said.

Another change Ms. Dingeldey is implementing is being more involved with the whole school community. Senior Elias Faghen-Smith commented on her involvement in the school. “I can’t really comment on the other principals because I never actually interacted with them. On that note, I like how Ms. Dingeldey is involved with the students. She can be found around the school and at sporting events,” he said.

Senior Cana Courtney said, “I like how she is making an effort to attend sporting events, and having the teachers more involved with the sports and other extracurricular activities.”

The teachers are seeing greater involvement from the students as well. Math teacher Melissa Braillard said, “Kids aren’t putting on their earbuds in the passing times anymore. It’s not worth it to listen to one song in that five minutes. They’re talking to people and engaging instead of staring at their devices.”