Dallas High establishes cellphone-free zone

DALLAS — Two schools, two different philosophies regarding cellphones.

Dallas High School Principal Steve Spencer demonstrated for the Dallas School Board members a system in which students would place their cellphones into a pouch during class, preventing use.

“We are looking at making some decisions about becoming a schoolwide cellphone-free zone in classrooms,” Spencer said.

He said the system the school is testing would provide teachers with a classroom set of cellphone pouches. Students would keep the pouch with their phone, but teachers would lock them.

“The liability for the school is not there,” Spencer said. “They are always in the possession of the kids.”

Board member Jon Woods asked if the new policy would violate students’ rights.

“We are checking that part,” Superintendent Michelle Johnstone said. “I can’t see that it would, we are double checking.”

Spencer said students could use their phones when not in class or for projects with teacher permission.

“Cellphones are the No. 1 distraction,” he said.

Board member Dave Hunt asked if similar policies could be adopted at other schools, saying he’s seen elementary school students with cellphones.

LaCreole Middle School Principal Jamie Richardson said he would prefer not to take away cellphones from students.

“I would not agree. I know there’s a lot of data out there that shows that kids are abusing it,” he said. “I just think you take away a huge, powerful opportunity for a tool. I would prefer to teach teachers to manage the environment. Teach a kid about responsibility. We have too many good things going on with them.”

Spencer said staff at the high school acknowledge that point.

“In our staff meeting we talked about the implication of that very thing,” Spencer said. “We want teachers to be able to use cellphones in the classroom.”

He said that inappropriate cellphone use may be more of a problem for older students.

“We are far more addicted to them at the high school than they are at the middle school,” Spencer said. “They are not really grasping the importance of responsibility.”

Richardson said teaching appropriate phone use in the school setting is part of the curriculum at the middle school.

“Those are things that we are choosing to weave into our social and emotional learning. We know the impact of addictive phone use is huge,” he said. “We are teaching kids how to use them like adults, trust them, and they are going to screw up every once in a while, but we do a lot of cool things with them.”

Hunt asked if the differences in policy between the two schools would cause a disconnect for students moving from LaCreole to DHS.

“We are preparing for that,” Spencer said.

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