RISD Interim Superintendent Tabitha Branum and high school and junior high principals are proposing an updated policy and guidelines for cellphone use among district students in grades 7-12. Click here to watch a video discussing the changes and proposed solution.
“Cellphone use among RISD secondary students during the school day has become a major issue, especially in recent years,” said Branum. “Phone use among students, and the ongoing classroom distractions and disciplinary issues that accompany it, are causing more and more school districts to re-evaluate student cellphone use during the school day. In RISD, our teachers, principals, and other employees who work directly with our older students have seen the ongoing distraction and lack of engagement among many students during instructional time due to phones. We’ve also experienced a wide variety of disciplinary issues that are the product of student smartphone use during the school day, including student altercations, cyberbullying, prohibited activity, photos and videos in violation of other student’s privacy rights, and social media posts or texts that result in safety concerns on campuses.”
“Our teachers, principals, and school staff have been asking for the district to take action, as classroom distraction from phone use is a daily occurrence. Student cellphone use was the number one problem RISD secondary teachers cited in our end-of-year teacher survey, and was also cited as problematic both in the RISD parent survey and in the community feedback provided during the recent superintendent search process,” said Branum .
At the Aug. 11 Board meeting, an updated policy will be proposed that prohibits cellphone use among secondary students during the school day. The updated policy is not much different than the existing policy, but approaches in a new way. After secondary principals studied ideas over the summer, RISD will be asking trustees to invest in magnet-locked cellphone bags from a company called Yondr. This company’s proprietary product – the Yondr Pouch – is used to create cell-phone free environments. These pouches have been used in schools since 2014, and here’s how the process works:
- Every RISD secondary student with a cellphone will be issued a Yondr Pouch.
- If a student has a phone, every day when entering school, students turn it off and place it in the Yondr Pouch, which prevents it from being used.
- At dismissal each day, students can unlock the Yondr Pouch at numerous unlocking stations throughout the school and begin using the phone.
This simple concept has a proven track record in more than 1,000 schools around the world. RISD principals have highly talked with administrators at schools that have implemented Yondr, who recommend the system. Among schools surveyed after implementing Yondr:
- 65% of schools saw an improvement in academic performance
- 74% of schools saw an improvement in student behavior
- 83% of schools saw an improvement in student engagement in the classroom
If approved, each RISD junior high and then high school would implement Yondr over the first weeks of the 2022-23 school year.
Parents would still be able to communicate with their student as needed during the school day. Each RISD secondary student is issued a Chromebook for use throughout each day, and every student is assigned a district email account that is readily accessible. In the event of a school emergency such as a lockdown, staff will be able to unlock Yondr bags when it is safe, allowing students to connect with parents to let them know they are OK. And students who rely on their smartphone to help manage a health condition, such as diabetes, will be able to continue to do that as part of their 504 accommodations.
Parents with feedback about the proposed cellphone updates for secondary students are encouraged to use the Let’s Talk feature on the RISD website.