Richardson ISD officials announced in early June plans to expand a pilot program restricting cellphone use to more schools in the district.

The pilot program, which was tested at Forest Meadow Junior High School during the 2022-23 school year, prohibited cellphone use on campus. Students at the school were required to put their cellphones in magnetic locked bags made by a company called Yondr throughout the school day to prevent usage.

What’s happening

For the 2023-24 school year, the program will be expanded to four additional schools: Lake Highlands High, Lake Highlands Junior High, Apollo Junior High and Liberty Junior High schools. The expanded program is expected to cost the district $140,000.

The decision comes as a result of positive feedback from Forest Meadow staff and a “dramatic” decrease in cellphone-related disciplinary instances, according to a news release from the district.

Jennie Bates, area superintendent of the Lake Highlands High School learning community, said during a June RISD board of trustees meeting that she initially had doubts about the Yondr program, but it was rolled out smoothly and saw wide support from both parents and staff.

“I know this is a big change, but as we saw from Forest Meadow, it is very successful,” Bates said during the meeting. “It was a culture-changing, life-changing experience for Forest Meadow.”

By the numbers

Across RISD, secondary campuses recorded an average of 49 cellphone violations per day during the 2022-23 school year, according to June meeting documents. At Forest Meadow, an average of eight violations per day was recorded.

In May, the district conducted several surveys to gauge the program’s efficacy. All of the participating Forest Meadow teachers said they can focus more time on teaching and learning in their classrooms due to the implementation of the program with 100% also agreeing that the program is “necessary” at their campus, according to meeting documents.

Of the students at Forest Meadow, about 14% supported the implementation of the Yondr program, compared to about 68% of Forest Meadow parents.

Although the Yondr program will only be implemented at five schools, all RISD campuses will continue to follow a cellphone-free policy. To learn more, visit the RISD website.