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Glen Ellyn District 41 approves technology policy despite parent pushback

GLEN ELLYN – The Glen Ellyn School District 41 Board of Education voted 4-1 Monday to approve a new technology policy, despite pleas from parents to change its language.

The policy is divided in two sections: Kindergarten to fifth grade and sixth to eighth grade.

Students in the first category will not be allowed to have any personal devices turned on or on their person during school hours, including cell phones.

Parents would be able to apply for a waiver for health or academic reasons. Personal technology could be used after hours.

Students in sixth to eighth grade would be allowed to have devices as long as they are powered off and not disruptive to other students. Personal technology can be used during school hours for academic purposes with guidance from teachers and after school hours during district-sponsored and related events.

The board opted to rewrite its entire technology policy after three students at Forest Glen Elementary School accessed pornographic websites in April on district grounds.

But parents Monday were upset that cell phones could be used in class by students in sixth to eighth grade.

District parent Laura Grabowski said phones and iPods are used inappropriately throughout the day to visit social media sites and take photos.

Grabowski said she saw no benefit to allowing middle school students to have cell phones or other devices in class.

"The kids don't need it. The tax-paying parents of District 41 are insisting on that," she said.

Teresa Milich, who has a student entering sixth grade, added that no parents voiced a need for in-class device use to be included in the technology policy.

"You don't have drones of people coming in saying, 'Please let me have a cell phone! I need it to do work!'" she said.

President John Kenwood, the board's lone "no" vote, said a cell phone is the "biggest disruptor" in a classroom, and equated it to the modern-day version of passing notes.

"I still struggle in sixth through eighth, why any kid needs a cell phone [in school]," he said.

Board members Cathryn Wilkinson and Erica Nelson were absent.

Board member Dean Elger, who sat on the committee that wrote the policy, attended three public listening sessions on the issue. He came in thinking no phones should be allowed in school, but said comments from parents made him believe students should be able to have them.

Board member Joe Bochenski said allowing personal technology in class would help prepare students for the real world.

"It dawned on me, the same things students do, I do at work," Bochenski said. "It just makes me mindful how much technology is a part of, and we're training these kids to be 21st century-ready."

Superintendent Paul Gordon said he will write the procedures for teachers and staff that will accompany the policy. Both will be in place before the start of the school year.

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