The ban, which would affect students in grades 7-12, would require students to put phones in magnetic-locked bags throughout the school day in order to prevent use.
Branum, who is scheduled to be officially hired as the district’s superintendent Aug. 9, announced her plans to propose a cell phone ban in a video posted on the district’s Youtube channel.
“Cell phone use among RISD secondary students during the school day has become a major issue, especially in recent years,” Branum said in the video. “Phone use among students, and the ongoing classroom distractions and disciplinary issues that accompany it, are causing more and more school districts to re-evaluate student cell phone use during the school day."
Texas Education Code section 37.082 allows a school board to adopt a policy prohibiting a student from possessing a telecommunications device while on school property or while attending a school-sponsored or school-related activity on or off school property.
Branum said teachers and other district staff have experienced students being distracted and displaying disciplinary issues as a result of smartphone use during the school day, including cyberbullying and “social media posts or texts that result in safety concerns on campuses.”
“Student cell phone use was the No. 1 problem RISD secondary teachers cited in our end-of-year teacher survey, and was also cited as problematic both in the RISD parent survey and in the community feedback provided during the recent superintendent search process,” Branum said.
The proposal will require students to put their cell phones into bags, called the Yondr Pouch, when they enter school, preventing them from being used throughout the school day. Students will be able to unlock the Yondr Pouch at numerous unlocking stations throughout the school at the end of the school day.
RISD officials said it will provide every secondary student a Yondr Pouch soon into the school year. In the event of an emergency, students would be able to unlock their bags when it is safe to do so, according to the district.
Branum said the updated policy is not much different than the district's existing policy—which prohibits students from using their phones during the school day—but it approaches enforcement in a new way.
According to district officials, the Yondr pouch has proven to be an effective deterrent to cell phone use in the more than 1,000 schools that have used the pouch. Schools surveyed who have implemented the use of Yondr reported the following:
- 65% of schools saw an improvement in academic performance.
- 74% of schools saw an improvement in student behavior.
- 83% of schools saw an improvement in student engagement in the classroom.
If approved, each RISD junior high and then high school would implement the Yondr system over the first weeks of the 2022-23 school year, according to a press release.
District officials said parents would still be able to communicate with their students through the use of email on the district-issued Chromebook. In addition, staff will be able to unlock Yondr bags in the event of a school emergency such as a lockdown to allow students to connect with parents.
Parents are encouraged to provide feedback on the updated cell phone policy here.