Lake Travis ISD may prohibit prekindergarten through eighth grade students from using their cellphones on campus next school year.

The district’s School Health Advisory Committee recommended implementing the policy at a June 19 board of trustees meeting. Nearly a dozen parents and a teacher shared their concerns about student cellphone use and support for the policy change during the public comment portion of the meeting.

“[Cellphones are] a huge problem, and this year was probably the worst year for cellphones on our campus,” said Tracie Weisinger, a sixth grade special education teacher at Lake Travis Middle School.

What’s happening

The SHAC members recommended adopting a technology use policy similar to one in Eanes ISD, in which prekindergarten through eighth grade students could not “display, turn on or use a personal device” at school, committee member Kristen Woodcock said. The policy would apply throughout the entire instructional day, including recess, lunch, passing periods, field trips and assemblies, she said.

The proposed changes were supported by district principals and would be included in the student handbook for 2024-25 school year, which will go to the board of trustees for approval in July, said Jennifer Lyon, LTISD director of health and social emotional learning. Parents will still be able to contact their students through campus phones, Lyon said.

Several board members said they favored the policy and wanted to ensure it would be properly enforced. Place 7 board member Keely Cano said the district should also re-evaluate its technology use policy at the high school level.

“I think this will go a tremendous way toward helping our students and our teachers and just overall have such a positive impact,” Cano said.

What they’re saying

Community members expressed concerns that cellphones on campus have:
  • Distracted students from learning
  • Presented challenges for teachers
  • Resulted in cyberbullying
  • Led to negative mental health outcomes
  • Inhibited students’ social development
LTISD parent Janelle Traister said her daughter has dreaded going to middle school since a video of her falling in theater class circulated amongst students through social media and text messages.

Parent Laura Ollinger said her middle school daughter stopped eating lunch due to an anonymous social media account filming students.

“These acts of cruelty are facilitated by the unrestricted use of cellphones, making our schools a battleground for social torment,” Traister said. “The constant presence of cellphones has made bullying inescapable."

At the elementary level, students have used cellphones during lunch and recess, and shown inappropriate content to other students on their devices, said Cristin Woodruff, a parent and president of the Parent Teacher Organization at Serene Hills Elementary School.

What else?

The SHAC recommended updating the district’s website to include more bullying prevention resources and transparent information about the bullying investigation process. In April, a former LTISD parent sued the district for $1.5 million on behalf of her son for its “failure to address the ongoing bullying” he experienced because of his peanut allergy, according to the lawsuit.

The committee suggested hiring more physical education teachers at elementary campuses and requiring a high school health course, including curriculum on sexual health, CPR, mental health, and fentanyl, nicotine and drug prevention.