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Richardson ISD teachers on need for updated cellphone-free policy: 'The phones never really go away'

Administrators say cellphone use has topped the list of concerns on campus. "It's become very combative."

RICHARDSON, Texas — On Thursday evening, the Richardson ISD board voted to update its outdated cellphone-free policy that was originally written in 2012. 

At the same time, the district pressed the back button on other proposed districtwide plans. Every district across the country is having to deal with the distraction that is cellphone use in the classroom. 

"It becomes very combative. The phones never really go away," said one teacher.

A pilot program will be installed at Forest Meadow Junior High, where students will receive pouches for their cellphones. The pouches will hold their phones and only teachers and administrators can unlock them for use. 

Back in 2019, Duncanville was the first North Texas school to go cellphone-free and use the pouches.

"If it doesn't work, we're OK to say it doesn't work," said the principal of Forest Meadow Junior High.

The parent backlash prompted the district to scale down its plans for the pouch rollout. The district admitted Thursday to receiving hundreds of comments and questions from parents and other stakeholders. 

Some parents told WFAA they want their children to have their phones nearby in case of an emergency. Other parents say the pilot program using pouches is too rushed, especially for a school like Forest Meadow, which is currently under heavy construction.

Where there is agreement is that cellphones are a distraction to learning. 

Teachers went up to the podium at Thursday's school board meeting to say it created a difficult environment. Cellphones are already prohibited in class, but it forces teachers to constantly police.

"The students will not give you their phones and it's not as simple as 'put them in the box,'" said one teacher.

The pandemic has done enough to distract from learning. But administrators here say cellphones have topped the list of concerns on campus. 

If the pilot program at Forest Meadow Junior High is successful, it will be taken under consideration for rollout districtwide.

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