There’s been a lot of discussion around students having access to smartphones throughout the school day, but there’s been less discussion about another group: teachers and staff. Should they have their cell phones in the classroom and turned on during the school day?
There are understandable reasons why school districts don’t want teachers to have their phones in the classroom. They can be a distraction and a teacher glued to their smartphone would be a bad example for the students.
However, research is showing that having phones in the classroom is helpful. In addition to phones being used as educational tools, there’s one big benefit that trumps any potential downside: Safety.
Teachers at the Ready
When an emergency happens at a school, seconds matter. When a teacher has their cell phone, they can alert others about an emergency quickly and on the move.
Steve Kidd, Principal at Gibault Catholic High School in Waterloo, IL, which uses SchoolGuard, said: “When an emergency happens, we want our teachers to be able to call for help quickly. If they have to leave the room to find help, it could make the situation worse or expose them to further danger or harm. With SchoolGuard, they can report an emergency wherever they are, whether in their classroom, hiding in the cafeteria, or outside on our campus grounds somewhere.”
The SchoolGuard app allows one person to notify hundreds of people with the push of a button— instantly. It allows teachers and staff, who are spread out around the school building or campus, to notify everyone of danger in the area. The app also calls 911 and notifies on- and off-duty law enforcement officers who can then respond to the scene as quickly as possible.
As FirstNet-listed apps, SchoolGuard and the rest of Guard911’s suite of emergency alert apps are vetted as trusted solutions for public safety. In an emergency, even if lines of communication are jammed for consumers, schools can be reassured that SchoolGuard communication will be given top priority over the FirstNet network.
Mobile phones have another benefit: mobility. Michael Kish, Principal at Immaculate Conception School in Columbia, IL, points out: “The portability of a cell phone during a lockdown ensures distancing from a doorway without worrying about where the landed phone is placed in the classroom.”
Trusting Teachers With Technology
Teachers are professionals, at work to do their jobs. An app like SchoolGuard helps them feel safer in doing that work. Trusting teachers to have their phones in the classroom and use them responsibly is important.
Brent Johnson, a school resource officer (SRO) and Guard911 consultant, recommends, “Teachers should have their phone on them or on their desk, with the volume turned low. For the notifications that they recognize, don’t check them until instruction time ends. But if there’s a notification sound they don’t usually hear, like SchoolGuard’s, they can check the phone quickly. If it’s not an urgent notification, they can resume instruction. If it’s an emergency, they can initiate safety protocols.”
Some school administrators might hear that and worry that the phone might be too distracting. But teachers are responsible adults and a simple phone policy can help regulate use.
Principal Kish said the policy at Immaculate Conception School is simple: “Teachers are not permitted to use phones anytime they are in a supervisory role unless it is for an academic purpose. They are not to be on their phone for personal use any time they are with students.”
Kish understands that the benefits outweigh any potential risk and says, “There has to be an element of trust that the phone is a tool and not a toy in the school setting.”
Gibault Catholic High School has a similar approach according to Principal Kidd. “Teachers can use their cell phones when they are not in front of students—prep time and lunch time are the two most common. We trust our teachers to be professionals. If a teacher is abusing the privilege to have a cell phone we feel that is a management issue.”
Why Schools Choose SchoolGuard
Each school district chooses to implement SchoolGuard for its own list of reasons. But in the end, it comes down to prioritizing the safety of the students, teachers, and staff.
“SchoolGuard is a major component of our Crisis Management Plan and we’ve had it for several years now,” said Kish. “Every teacher and staff member with a compatible phone has the app, and we have more than 30 people who can make the alert in time of a crisis. And the principal push option allows for messages to and alerts to everyone in time of need.”
“No stone should be left unturned in creating a safe campus,” Kish continued. “We are grateful for this technology. It is another layer of security for our school and a constant reminder to be vigilant.”
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