Sitting down with Ms. Malott about the cell phone policy

Hardison B., reporter

February 2020 – I sat down with O. Henry’s very own principal, Ms. Malott, and talked to her about the recent phone policy change and her thoughts on it. If you have questions about the phone policy, this is for you. 

What events led you to making the new phone policy? Or was this a product of Austin I.S.D?

We had been reviewing our data, and our data was showing that a lot of our students were getting in trouble for having their cell phones out. Also, we were noticing that many of our students were having a hard time managing their devices and the impact of social media on our campus.

Is this phone policy only going to affect O. Henry or will this affect other AISD schools?

There were a couple of other schools in August that already made this decision. Right now, there are eight schools like O. Henry that have already done the no cell phones on campus rule.

Was there a study or article that led to you making the phone policy? If so, what?

I can get you that article! Yes, our leadership team was reading a lot of articles. I also have a book about technology and the teenage brain and how that impacts learning and brain development.

Would you be open to making changes to the cellphone policy?

I would be open to hearing what someone had to say and the “why” behind it. 

About how many phones have you guys taken up since the activation of the phone policy?

During the first week, we had 34 phones that got taken up.  I like to call them the catch and release.  And it’s about that every week or so. We do have about seven students that have to come in every day to cheek in their phones and pick them up at the end of the day.

Has it gotten more busy at the office since the phone policy? If so, how?

I would say it’s getting busier for Mr. Tierney, our attendance specialist. He has been helping collect the phones and logging them into our excel spreadsheet, so that part is a little busy.

Has there been any resistance to the phone policy? 

I would say that we had two students in the month of January that were pretty resistant to the policy. But that was only two out of all of O. Henry, so that’s a pretty good track record.

Do you think on average most kids are happy or unhappy with the phone policy?

Why don’t you tell me?

I think some people complain about it, but on average most people are fine with it.

I think the kids without fancy phones don’t feel singled out as much. Like when a teacher says to take out their phones, and there are students that don’t have one. Now, I feel those kids think it’s fair because it is no longer a have or have not.

What grade do you think the most confiscated phones come from? 

I would have to say 8th grade, mostly because a lot of 8th graders need to have phones because they are staying after at a friends house or for after school activities. 

Do you think the new phone policy has helped reduce use of phones or increase the use? 

I think it has helped reduce the use of phones, especially with social media apps like Snapchat, or Instagram, and taking videos. I think they are put up and out of sight and I think it’s been healthier for our campus.