Push to Confiscate Cell Phones at Fresno High School Has Parents and Students in Arms


Students at Bullard High will not be able to take out their cellphones during the school day under a divisive new policy in the northwest Fresno community.

Principal Armen Torigian, who took the job midway through last school year, told families in a recent back-to-school letter that the new cellphone ban is designed to improve students’ academic performance by reducing distractions. and the disturbances that cell phone use can create.

But critics complain that the policy has been abandoned to the community without full discussion, and that its real purpose is to stifle students’ ability to document hateful incidents, such as a social media post in May of a video showing a Bullard student in the school weight room wearing what looked like a KKK balaclava. The video and photos sparked student and community protests and a march on the downtown education hub.

A petition launched this week on change.org, “Keep Phones Accessible at Bullard,” had 1,872 signatures as of Friday afternoon. The creator of the petition is listed as “Bullard High’s Student Body”.

Under the new policy, Bullard students will receive a lockable pouch created by the Yondr company that allows them to retain possession of their phones, which would remain electronically locked in the pouch during the school day. Students would be responsible for any damage to the sleeves, such as trying to force open them.

Improved academic performance

In his letter, Torigian said that using Yondr at other schools has improved student engagement and academic performance and decreased behavioral referrals. Torigian declined to comment for this story.

The change.org petition, however, claims that there are other motives behind the cell phone ban. Students “believe that phone banning is something completely different from an enriched learning experience,” the petition states. “They believe Bullard is silencing student voices in order to more effectively sweep all incidents under its ever-expanding rug. Bullard has a history of racial mishaps, but they never saw a reason to change their routine of hiding them until they realized the world was watching them through a cellphone camera. BHS students take a stand. They demand change because they deserve to be heard.

“A cell phone ban is also not what they have in mind. They want support staff who understand their difficulties, not staff who will actively ignore their problems. They want their manager and the whole The district takes them and their experiences seriously and examines them rather than just making empty promises.But instead of asking students’ opinions, Mr. Torigian has decided to ban anything that validates student experiences. using images, video and audio: their cell phones. Bullard High School has a problem, and it’s not the phones. We all know it and it’s time to fix it.

The district has previously used Yondr for students at Phoenix High School, with similar results in terms of improved student engagement, less cheating and fewer disciplinary cases, according to a report from the board of directors. administration released in June by Yolanda Jimenez-Ruiz, an alternative education administrator.

Marcelino Valdez Jr., president of the school’s PTSA, said some parents were surprised and upset to learn of the new policy that was being implemented without consulting them first. Valdez said he didn’t even get a courtesy call from Torigian about the new policy.

He wondered if the cellphone ban would apply to students whose Individual Education Plan, or IEP, includes access to a cellphone.

Also, some students may need to keep their cell phone handy to check their blood sugar if they have diabetes.

Candidates for the school board give their opinion

Zone 7 school board candidate Susan Wittrup says it’s important for parents to have a say in changes to school policies. “Especially after Uvalde (the recent mass school shooting in Texas), it is a mistake to move forward without parental input and support,” she said in a text message to GV Wire. “Parents are our partners in education, and I would never make such a decision without their involvement.”

But Wittrup, who is running to unseat incumbent administrator Terry Slatic, said there also appears to be a political side to the new policy based on what she has heard from parents and community members.

“We have to call this cellphone confiscation scheme what it is: It’s Terry Slatic sacrificing the safety of our children to prevent another embarrassing viral incident at Bullard High School. Worse still, Terry seems to think that ignoring the safety of our children is worth the whopping $35,000 cost of the magnetic bags. Only a few weeks ago, relatives were mourning the death in Uvalde. No one except Terry Slatic would think that taking away a tool that will connect kids to parents and public safety in a crisis is a good idea.

When asked if he favors or supports the new cell phone policy, Slatic sent the following text: “I support Principal Armen Torigian’s vision to improve all aspects of education in his school.”

Jim Barr, who is also running to overthrow Slatic, called the cellphone ban a “distraction”.

“This is a distraction for the Bullard High football coach who got caught ‘without a pass’ off campus during his contract day while accepting an award at an Armenian social club so that his weight room students were unsupervised and ‘filming’ what turned out to be the latest in the festival of shame that is ‘kids raising the devil and themselves,'” Barr said. in an email to GV Wire.

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