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Fredericksburg School Staff Want Student Phones Locked Up

Faculty at Fredericksburg City Public Schools in Virginia overwhelmingly say the district should make clear to students and their families that only school-issued devices will be allowed during instructional time.

phone pouch
Some school districts require students to lock their cell phones in a Yondr pouch to avoid distractions during the school day.
Alexandra Pais/TNS
(TNS) — Forty faculty and staff members from two Fredericksburg City Public Schools met Tuesday, with the "overwhelming majority" agreeing that student cellphones should be out of reach during the school day.

Representatives from Walker-Grant Middle School and James Monroe High School worked on the school system's cellphone-free initiative, which is expected to be presented to the School Board on July 1. The action comes as school systems nationwide and locally, including Stafford County, are banning phones during the day to minimize distractions in the classroom.

"It's time for all of us to tackle this issue of students who are either addicted to social media or flagrantly disregard the rules," said Matt Eberhardt, deputy superintendent of Fredericksburg schools. "Teachers want to teach and don't want to police students and cellphones."

He made a pitch last week, asking for phone-free classrooms starting in August. Members of the School Board supported the idea but questioned the logistics involved.

Tuesday's two-hour meeting with staff honed in on the recommendation that "Yondr" pouches be used to contain student phones during the day. Students would put their phones in the pouches to lock them when they enter schools. Then, the pouches would be unlocked when the last bell rings or if students leave early by devices that are placed at exits.

The group also agreed that students should use only school-issued devices during instructional time, and that it should be made clear to students and families that no other personal communication devices would be allowed.

Exceptions would be made for students with medical issues or in cases of federally mandated compliance.

The focus group also discussed the need for teachers to put their phones away, just as they expect students to do, and how emergency situations would be handled.

The group couldn't agree on disciplinary actions for those who break the rules. The administrative team plans to discuss those measures.

"Tough decisions will have to made in the absence of agreement," said Marcus Pretty, principal of James Monroe High School.

April Dillow, a counselor at Walker-Grant, said the school system wants to create an environment where students can engage with their lessons and peers and reach their highest potential.

"When you take electronics away, you replace them with greater classroom focus, improved interpersonal connections and the gift of being fully present — something all of us would most certainly benefit from," she said.

Dr. Kisha Frye, assistant principal at Walker-Grant, who helped organized the event with Nick Brousse, assistant principal at James Monroe, said the initiative would help put the focus back on education.

"It's good for student achievement and it's good for students' mental health by getting them off the never-ending use of and reliance on cellphones," Frye said.

©2024 The Free Lance-Star (Fredericksburg, Va.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.