Readers Say

‘Remove that stressor’: Readers say these items should be banned from schools

Plus, see who readers think should be in charge of what stays and goes in the classroom.

An empty classroom in Brookline, Massachusetts. Adam Glanzman/Bloomberg

As schools try to get a handle on student performance and promote healthy learning environments, bans are becoming a popular way to get more control. Many of our readers think schools are doing the right thing by instating bans in classrooms.

School administrators at Stoughton High School recently banned all “political items” like Black Lives Matter, Pride, and Thin Blue Line flags from classrooms in an effort to limit distraction. In other districts, cell phone bans have become more common. 

While every district has made the defense that their decisions are only meant to improve student well-being, not everyone is on the same page about what’s appropriate in the classroom and not. Some teachers in Stoughton were upset to learn that they couldn’t put up flags in solidarity with their students, and some Boston.com readers have voiced that educators generally aren’t allowed enough input over what happens in their classrooms.

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When asked who should have the most say over what happens in the classroom, a majority of readers agreed that the responsibility belongs to the teachers, with parents coming in second.

“Teachers are on the front lines and have a front row seat to what is working and what is not. Unfortunately, they are often not consulted for important decisions that affect students and the classroom environment,” said MK from Rhode Island.

Krysten from the North Shore was among the readers who voiced that there should be a collaboration between all groups involved in children’s education, including the children themselves. 

“All of the above,” she said. “The entire community should be involved in making decisions on what is best for curriculum.”

Who should decide what makes the best learning environment in schools?
Teachers
49%
73
School administrators
7%
11
Students
2%
3
Parents
28%
42
Other
13%
20

Most of the readers who responded to our poll were in favor of some kind of ban in schools, whether that was focused on cell phones or political items. Antaris D. from Watertown, however, said bans get in the way of quality education. She said she was in favor in cell phone restriction during class time, but no limits should be placed on things like Pride and Black Lives Matter flags. 

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“In America, we educate all children, from all backgrounds and each deserves to feel welcomed and respected. Banning books does nothing for education but discussing the content does. As adults, we have to remember the importance and attention we bring to issues brings them to the forefront,” she said. “Do we want to teach children to scrutinize books and decide if we like what they say and ban subjects? Or do we teach them to be critical problem solvers and creative thinkers? How do you educate without various opinions and deferring thoughts?”

Below you’ll find a sampling of responses from readers sharing their thoughts on what should and shouldn’t be banned in the classroom. 

Some entries may be edited for length and clarity.

What, if any, items should be banned in school? 

Phones, political messaging, and more

“Cell phones should be banned from schools. They are unnecessary and distracting from academics and if parent or medical professional(s) need to be reached for a student, in an emergency, the office phone could be used. Also, a break from social media during the school day would remove that stressor which could enhance students’ confidence and learning.” — Maureen M., South Boston

“Phones. Too much distraction from learning. I worry about the concentration level of these kids. They need a break from it all and school is the place. Also suggestive clothing! It has to be appropriate.” — Michelle, Woburn

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“Religion, because it is entirely personal, based on faith, not rooted in reality, and should not be forced on anyone.” — Bryan J., Lexington

“The only flag that should be allowed in the classroom is the American flag. No political or [social justice warrior] flags or messaging. No cellphone use during class but can be used outside of class. Only age-appropriate material should be taught or used in the classroom.” — Leonid S., Boston

“Cell phones! They are distracting, almost universally used as a result of peer pressure, and they contribute substantially to poor self-esteem.” — Joslin M., Brookline

“Guns, because they are deadly. Phones brought in by students, because they are a distraction. Cameras brought in by students because they are invasive.” — Shane C., Newburyport

“Why not make uniforms more common in schools, so that there is no obvious disparity in who can afford what clothes and shoes?” — Betsy, Hull

“Homework! Kids and parents are exhausted and need a break. Assigning hours of homework is actually counterproductive and wildly unnecessary.” — Megan, Wellesley

“Anything with hate speech, including Thin Blue Line (anti-POC and GBLT) flags, should be banned. Cell phones should be banned only if they are causing a distraction in class. An alternative could be that they must be kept on airplane mode with wifi turned off, so they can still be used for taking notes.” — Wayne, Tewksbury

‘Never close the door to discussion’

“Beyond the obviously physically harmful things, others should be discussed. If one student feels comfort in the pride flag, it harms no one and helps them feel safe. That should not be banned. Another actually is able to focus, tuning out their anxiety or ADHD with background music, therefore their coping mechanism should not be banned.” — Jocilyn, Brockton

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“Nothing. Unless it creates an unsafe environment or is disruptive to other students.” — Max, Brighton

“Nothing, all points should be welcomed and discussed openly and honestly, without anyone being made to feel like they are wrong or ridiculed.” — DC, Marblehead

“If it causes a disruption, maybe we should consider a ban. Using the word ban implies it is never to return. Maybe we call it a restriction. We should never close the door to discussion on items that are banned, keeping the dialogue open is key, I think. Often something is banned and we miss the opportunity for a teaching moment.” — LP, Middleborough

“None. They all accompany the right to free speech (except for weapons of any kind). Do you want a final call from your kid during a school shooting? Don’t ban phones.” — Jenna, Fenway

Boston.com occasionally interacts with readers by conducting informal polls and surveys. These results should be read as an unscientific gauge of readers’ opinions.