Dr. Kermit Ward
Vernon ISD superintendent
Just before the Christmas on the high school campus, discussions with the leadership team and teachers revealed to me that students’ mode of dress and their never-tiring discussions and at times, debates with students regarding their cell phone use were a distraction and impeding the teachers’ ability to teach. The teachers spent part of their professional development day on January 2nd discussing the plan that we had vaguely discussed in December.
We realized that communication with the community, the parents, and of course the students needed to be a priority. We sent a Facebook post at the end of the day on January 3rd and had student assemblies the first day students returned for each grade level on January 4th. It was important that everyone understood that we were not re-writing the rule book or policy but yet committed to simply enforcing what was already in place.
On the surface some would wonder why are we so focused on this and not the academic situation of the district and the individual students? I will agree with whomever that this does not change what and how teachers teach in the classroom, however this does make a profound difference in the students’ ability to digest and consume what the teachers are teaching. We want our kids dressed appropriately and to be fully engaged with the teacher without any distractions. I think we all can agree that cell phones can take away from anyone’s attention.
Setting a standard for how our kids dress while they are at school is setting an expectation that we want to see in all Vernon schools and in our kids. Vernon I.S.D. is no different from any other well-respected organization that requires a certain mode of dress. A mode of dress sets a standard that we want to see in our kids and in our schools. Also, our students learn and grow from their programs when they are fully present and actively engaged, and they can’t do this if they are always drawn to their phone. Technology keeps students from spending time with their new friends around a bonfire, or participating in a group discussion after a day of service. We have incredible activities and experiences planned for them, but if they are distracted by texts and emails—as well-intentioned as they may be—it does them a disservice. They become more engaged with what is going on back home than with what is happening in their lives at that moment. We understand that cell phones have great utility, but cell phone use has increasingly become a source of distraction, antisocial behavior and conflict both at home and at school.
The educational philosophy from here on out will be that we move well beyond just teaching reading, writing and arithmetic. We aim to teach the whole child. The soft skills are just as critical as the educational ability of individuals. Setting a mode of dress and teaching them to manage the use of their cell phones is a soft skill that they will well see once they are in the real world. We hope you understand our stance on technology and dress code, and we highly encourage you to talk with your child about communication and mode of dress expectations before they depart for school. With your support, we can help your child focus on the world around them—not their phone.