Twin Cities school districts put tougher restrictions on cell phones

Twin Cities school districts put tougher restrictions on cell phones

Twin Cities school districts put tougher restrictions on cell phones

Cellphones have become a part of our daily routine but there’s fueling debate on whether they have a place in classrooms. 

The Anoka-Hennepin School District has new guidelines that put tougher restrictions on cell phones during class time. The district says eliminating distractions to learning is the primary reason for this action but parents have looming concerns regarding safety. 

“The more we can have that human connection, I think the healthier they are, and phones can really be a barrier to that at times,” said Anoka-Hennepin School Superintendent Cory McIntyre.

School officials say the new guidelines only pertain to cellphones and not smartwatches. They say the strategies put in place are new guidelines districtwide and are not reflective of a change in policy as the policy has been in place for decades. 

Under the new guidelines, high school students will need to keep their phones off and concealed, unless teachers give them permission. The changes look a little different for middle and elementary students as phones are completely off-limits and need to be stored away during school. 

“I think we’ve just seen more and more information around what the impact of screentime can have on learning, and social development, on connection,” McIntyre said. 

In the past, there weren’t enough Chromebooks and laptops available so instructors leaned on cellphones, however, officials say it’s become a distraction and a safety issue with social media around bullying and harrassment, McIntrye said.

In terms of enforcing the guidelines, teachers are trained not to touch or physically remove students’ phones. Instead, students who break the rules will be talked to and families could get involved, if needed. If the same student continues to violate the rules, they could face tougher consequences according to the disciplinary policy.

“As much as I, you know, don’t want cell phones in the classroom, there’s some safety concerns,” said Heidi Draeger, a parent. 

Draeger is worried the new guidelines will get in the way of her kids being able to reach her, especially during emergencies like in April when there was a bomb threat at Jackson Middle School in Champlin.

“My two oldest were able to communicate with me right away, which was great. And they were able to communicate with me before the school district communicated with me,” said Draeger.

School officials say they try to get information out by email and text as quickly as possible through a mass notification system. Schools also work with law enforcement who would be sending out messages about the emergency response. 

If parents need to get a hold of their child, McIntyre says all they have to do is “call the office, we can find their child and…pass on information as needed so that parents feel like they have that connection.” 

The Robbinsdale School District has also implemented new guidelines. Elementary and middle school students are expected to put their phones away for the entire school day. High school students also cannot use their phones during class, but they can access their phones before the morning bell, during passing time, lunch and after the bell. 

The Robbinsdale School District says if high school students have their phones out during instructional time, the following process will take place:

  • 1st time: The teacher will talk to the student and reteach expectations.
  • 2nd time: The teacher will talk to the student and call home.
  • 3rd time: The student will be referred to the Coaches Corner. The Coaches Corner staff may bag and tag the student’s phone for the remainder of the day or class period (depending on the student’s progressive discipline) and call home. If the student is referred to the Coaches Corner for this reason more than one time, a family meeting will be scheduled to discuss the student’s use of personal devices in the learning environment.