The Maxwell Unified School District Board of Trustees unanimously approved a stricter cell phone policy for middle school students at their last meeting.
They also ordered better enforcement of the current policy at the high school.
The new policy, which will take effect at the start of the next school year, will restrict middle school students from having any type of electronic communication device on their person during school hours.
“They are not to be used during school hours,” said Trustee Kelly Haywood.
The new policy is in response to students becoming increasingly distracted by their phones and devices to the point of allowing them to interfere with their schoolwork, officials said.
The district’s current policy allowes middle school students to carry phones, although it states they are not to be used on school premises at any time during the school day, unless used for instructional purposes at the discretion of the teachers.
The school board decided that since middle school students clearly violate the policy, then the behavior illustrates that expecting them to resist the urge to use their phones is not realistic.
Schools across the country are starting to move toward “Away For The Day” policies for middle school students because impulse control in the brain has not yet developed.
Principal Staci deWit said she believes there are clear signs that her middle school students have become addicted to the behavior to a point where they snap chat in restrooms, are on their phones during lunch or on the field, and are passing internet content to each other during class.
“They just don’t need their phones,” deWit said. “There are no reason for them.”
According to the “Away for the Day” initiative, launched in March by the team from the award-winning documentary, “Screenagers: Growing Up in the Digital Age,” students who do not have the freedom of accessing their cell phones during school hours are more engaged socially and academically.
The group also conducted a national survey of parental preferences that showed 82 percent of parents do not want their middle school kids using phones while they are at school.
Maxwell seems to be no exception.
“Parents have been very supportive,” deWit said. “They’ve come in and said ‘fantastic,’ so I think parental support is there overall.”
Students caught next year with any mobile communication device, such as a cell phone or I-Watch, on their person would be subject to disciplinary action.
The new policy also states that the “contents of a cell phone may be reviewed and searched if there exists a reasonable suspicion that it may have been used in any activity prohibited by the code of conduct.”
Examples of unacceptable use can include, but are not limited to, use of an electronic device in a restroom, in or between classes, during snacks or lunch, or anytime during the school day while on school premises.
The current cell phone policy for the high school is that students can use their phones only during lunch and breaks, or for instruction at the discretion of the teacher.
Cell phones are not allowed to be used between classes, or be visible or used in the restrooms, locker rooms, or common areas.
The only exception to any of the cell phone policies is the use of devices determined by a licensed physician or surgeon to have a health-related purpose, officials said.