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Student Cellphone Ban at Bullard High Delayed Again. What is New Timeline?

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Bullard High School cellphone lock-up policy (GV Wire Composite/Paul Marshall)
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Bullard High School’s new policy banning student access to their cellphones and other smart devices during the school day is being postponed again, Principal Armen Torigian said Sunday in his weekly message to students, parents, and staff.

Torigian, who announced the new policy before the beginning of the school year, said in his recorded message that the school is continuing to finalize the implementation process with students, answer questions and concerns that have arisen, and “tightening up our processes and procedures and hiring new staff.”

The cellphone ban initially was to take effect at the beginning of the school year, but Torigian reportedly agreed to delay it until the first week of October so students could keep their devices through homecoming. The timeline has now been shifted to an early November start.

He did not immediately respond to a query from GV Wire on Monday to elaborate on which processes and procedures would need be tightened, the number of new staffers, and their roles.

Bullard parent Marcelino Valdez Jr. said Torigian still is not hearing the concerns that parents and students are raising, especially after a recent social media threat that prompted a mass response from the Fresno Police Department. The threat of armed shooters on campus turned out to be a hoax.

“I feel he is focusing on the wrong problems our students face at Bullard,” Valdez said in a text message to GV Wire. “This shows me and the majority of Bullard parents (evident from the town hall he had back in September) he is less interested in providing a safe learning environment for our kids than he is in pushing through his own agenda.”

Torigian hosted a town hall meeting in early September to give the Bullard community the opportunity to talk about the new policy, which has come under heavy criticism from some parents although it has the support of other parents.

Reducing Distractions

Torigian has said that the policy, which is already in effect at another Fresno Unified school as well as schools around the nation, will reduce distractions, increase student engagement, and improve the school’s learning environment.

But critics contend the real reason behind the ban is to prevent recording of any future incidents similar to the one in May when a student was recorded wearing a head covering that resembled a KKK hood. The incident sparked widespread protests among Fresno Unified students and reportedly led to disciplinary actions against the students involved in the incident.

The policy would require students to place their smart devices in a magnetically locked pouch during the school day. In the event of an emergency students could break into the pouch to access their phone without penalty.

Valdez said he believes the Fresno Unified administration, which has expressed support for the Bullard cellphone policy, plans to roll out a similar policy districtwide.

However, district spokeswoman Nikki Henry said Monday there are no such plans.

Nancy Price is a multimedia journalist for GV Wire. A longtime reporter and editor who has worked for newspapers in California, Florida, Alaska, Illinois and Kansas, Nancy joined GV Wire in July 2019. She previously worked as an assistant metro editor for 13 years at The Fresno Bee. Nancy earned her bachelor's and master's degrees in journalism at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. Her hobbies include singing with the Fresno Master Chorale and volunteering with Fresno Filmworks. You can reach Nancy at 559-492-4087 or Send an Email