New exam policy clamps down on presence of cell phones in testing rooms

Students have been asked to leave cell phones in their lockers or cars during final exams to enforce a stricter anti-cheating policy. 

The administration announced at the faculty meeting April 13 that there would be new guidelines regarding the use of cell phones in testing rooms.

If a student can’t use a locker or did not drive to school, he or she may leave the cell phone in a bag, which must be put against the wall during the test. As a final resort, the phone can be placed under the desk for the final. Finding a cell phone in a student’s pocket during the exam is grounds for invalidating the score. 

Teachers were asked later in the week by Head of Upper School Harry Salamandra to inform all their students of the new procedure so as to avoid confusion. Salamandra said that the policy is basically the same rule as the one in the student handbook, that cell phones are not to be used in any building, and that this would just help people to understand the rules better by providing a heads-up beforehand.

“The problem with having a cell phone in your pocket is that you could leave to go to the bathroom and call your friend,” Salamandra said. “This is just a way of trying to control a problem.”

The use of cell phones is forbidden just during the exam, and does not apply afterwards during the day.

The new guidelines stemmed from the growing number of cell phones being used on campus, Salamandra said. This conviction was reinforced when AP students were asked to place their cell phones in a box at the front of the room during their exams.
“This was the first year where it felt like everyone had a cell phone,” Salamandra said.

Salamandra thinks that the issue probably would have been brought up regardless of the cheating that took place in January with the World and Europe II and Spanish III midterms. Head of Foreign Language Javier Zaragoza feels that though the issue had been discussed before, it hadn’t ever really materialized until this year.

“[The midterm cheating] was a personal violation, and it’s going to stay with us for awhile,” Zaragoza said. “And technology has gotten to the point where it’s so accessible to everyone that we need to be more savvy. We just want to keep the temptation away and be fair to all students.”

Head of the History Department Katherine Holmes-Chuba views the new policy as the “next logical step.”

With SAT tests at Harvard-Westlake, a new rule about cell phones is being considered as well. For students from different schools without cars or lockers, cell phones may be placed in plastic bags with cards. The student can write his or her name on the card and pick up the cell phone after the test.

Zaragoza says that he has been thinking of ways to reduce temptation in the classroom, and not with just cell phones. One idea would be to leave backpacks in the hall on test days.

“There’s always that fraction of society that does the wrong thing,” Zaragoza said. “We want to give the honest kids a sense of an honest environment.”