• Joanne Jacobs

Without phones, school is calmer and students are listening, talking

Banning cell phones transformed a Philadelphia high school, reports Kristen A. Graham in the Inquirer.


Students were ignoring teachers -- and each other -- to focus on their phones, Marla Travis, principal of West Philadelphia High, says. She turned to "Yondr pouches, sealed magnetic devices that allow students to keep phones in their possession but inaccessible until unlocked at the end of the day," writes Graham.


Now, students are paying attention to teachers and talking to friends, face to face, during breaks.

Nationally, 77 percent of public schools prohibit cell phone usage for non-academic purposes, she writes. "But schools’ rules — from allowing phone use during lunch and in the hallways to confiscating any phones visible during the day — are often inconsistently applied." At Overbrook High, students were using phones to set up fights or send porn to each other, says Principal Kahlila Johnson. The school adopted Yondr pouches in May and is seeing improvements in the school climate. There's "more student engagement, fewer fights, calmer hallways, even a decrease in parents coming to school threatening teachers," writes Graham.


At Nolan Catholic High School in Fort Worth, Texas, stricter penalties for cell phone use have changed the culture, reports Cynthia M. Allen in the Star-Telegram.


Principal Oscar Ortiz says confiscating phones (parents must pay a fine to get them back) has cut phone use by 85 to 90 percent.


"Teachers report that students are already more engaged, livelier and more attentive," writes Allen.

But what’s truly extraordinary about the policy is the effect it’s had on student culture. “For the first time in a long time, [the students] can actually have friendships again,” Ortiz said. “Real conversations in the hallways and lunch rooms. Real human interactions.” It seems that when kids are allowed to use their devices during the school day, they ambulate the hallways like extras on the set of “The Walking Dead,” barely lifting their eyes, never acknowledging each other.
Now, they greet adults in the hallway. Even their posture has changed. Now, they look up.

Ortiz says porn and cyberbullying, issues at other schools, haven't been a problem this year.


Michigan legislators are considering a bill requiring schools to ban cell phones. Some parents worry their children won't be able to contact them in an emergency.

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