RISD Acting Superintendent Tabitha Branum and high school and middle school principals are proposing an updated policy and guidelines for cell phone use among district students in grades 7-12. Click here to watch a video discussing the changes and the proposed solution.
“Cellphone use among RISD high school students during the school day has become a major issue, especially in recent years,” Branum said. “Telephone use among students, along with classroom distractions and accompanying discipline issues, is causing more and more school districts to reevaluate student cellphone use during the school day. At RISD, our teachers, principals and other staff who work directly with our older students have seen the continued distraction and lack of engagement of many students during teaching hours due to telephones. We have also encountered a wide variety of disciplinary issues that are the product of student smartphone use during the school day, including student-to-student altercations, cyberbullying, prohibited activities, photos and videos in violation of privacy rights of other students and social media posts or texts. that lead to safety issues on campuses.
“Our teachers, principals, and school staff have called on the district to take action because classroom distraction from phone use is a daily occurrence. Student cell phone use was the number one issue for RISD high school teachers cited in our end-of-year teacher survey, and was also cited as an issue in both the RISD parent survey and in community feedback provided during the recent superintendent search process,” Branum said. .
At the August 11 board meeting, an updated policy will be proposed that prohibits cell phone use among high school students during the school day. The updated policy is not significantly different from the existing policy, but approaches enforcement in a new way. After secondary directors considered ideas over the summer, RISD will ask directors to invest in magnetic-locking cellphone bags from a company called Yondr. This company’s proprietary product – the Yondr Pouch – is used to create cellphone-free environments. These pouches have been used in schools since 2014, and here’s how the process works:
- Every RISD high school student with a cell phone will receive a Yondr pouch.
- If a student has a phone, every day upon entering school, students turn it off and place it in the Yondr Pouch, preventing it from being used.
- Every day when leaving, students can unlock the Yondr pouch at many unlock stations throughout the school and start using the phone.
This simple concept has been proven in over 1,000 schools around the world. RISD principals have spoken with school administrators who have implemented Yondr, who highly recommend the system. Of the schools surveyed after implementing Yondr:
- 65% of schools saw an improvement in their academic performance
- 74% of schools saw an improvement in student behavior
- 83% of schools saw improved student engagement in the classroom
If approved, each middle and then high school in RISD would implement Yondr in the first few weeks of the 2022-23 school year.
Parents could still communicate with their student as needed during the school day. Each RISD high school student receives a Chromebook to use throughout the day, and each student is assigned an easily accessible district email account. In the event of a school emergency such as a lockdown, staff will be able to unlock Yondr bags when safe, allowing students to connect with parents to let them know they are okay. And students who rely on their smartphone to manage a health condition, such as diabetes, will be able to continue to do so within their 504 accommodations.
Parents with feedback on proposed updates for high school student cell phones are encouraged to use the Let’s Talk feature on the RISD website.