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Friday, Sept. 8, 2023

All across the country this year, school districts are making headlines for banning cellphones in schools. Educators say it’s an overwhelming problem. Cellphone use is pervasive in class and it devastates the learning environment. And a lot of teachers just aren’t successful at keeping the devices out of children’s hands.

For that reason, many of the new bans go far beyond simple rules instructing students to keep their devices turned off during class. There’s a high school in Missouri, for example, that won’t allow students to have their devices during school. Period. Students must either leave the device at home, or turn it into the school’s office. But that school is small, about 300 students. Larger schools that want a foolproof way of keeping kids off their devices need different methods. And, for many, that method is Yondr pouches.

In late August, NBC Nightly News did a story about the rise in the use of Yondr pouches. They’re basically small sleeves with magnetic locks. Each student gets one, and at the start of the school day they are instructed to put their phones in the pouch and lock it. The pouches stay locked until the end of the day when the students file by a special station that releases it.

The short NBC story is worth watching, because this is precisely the system that Charlottesville City Schools will implement at its middle and high school later this year.

In the foreground someone is pictured at a desk from behind looking at a mobile device. In front of them, a man has his back turned writing on a chalkboard.
Credit: Photo provided by Pixabay

Charlottesville City Schools teachers clash over new cellphone ban

This decision did not come without some controversy. After the school district announced the new policy in August, a host of parents spoke out against it. Some are concerned about communicating last-minute schedule changes with their children. Others are worried about what happens if there is an emergency at school and their children are unable to call them — or anyone else. You can read more about this in this Daily Progress article.

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Within the school district, educators tend to agree that cellphone use among students is poison in the classroom. There are many studies that back this up. Even among university students, those who use their devices during instruction times receive lower test scores and lower grades than students who don’t.

But teachers disagree on how to effectively control their students’ phone use. Are the Yondr pouches really necessary?

Our Education and Families reporter Tamica Jean-Charles spoke with teachers about what it is like trying to manage cellphone use in Charlottesville City Schools. Whether you have children in local schools or not, this story is well worth your time to read for the behind the scenes look it provides at our local education system.

A ballroom full of people sit at round tables watching someone at the front of the room speaking. That person's face is projected onto large screens on either side of her.
Credit: Courtesy of James Minichello of American Association for School Administrators/Education Writers Association

Charlottesville Tomorrow reporter Tamica Jean-Charles wins national fellowship for education reporting

And, speaking of Tamica, I am proud to announce that she recently won a highly coveted national reporting fellowship with the Education Writers Association. The fellowship will support her as she dives into more education stories this coming year. So, stay tuned for some more great stories from her on our local schools and education system.

Thanks for reading!

Jessie Higgins, managing editor

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I'm Charlottesville Tomorrow's managing editor and health and safety reporter. If there’s something you think we should be investigating, please email me at jhiggins@cvilletomorrow.org! And you can follow all the work we do by subscribing to our free newsletter! Hablo español, y quiero mantener a la comunidad hispanohablante informada. Si tienes preguntas o información que debo saber, por favor, envíame un correo electrónico a jhiggins@cvilletomorrow.org.