Branum planned to propose a measure during the Aug. 11 board of trustees meeting that would prohibit cell phone use in secondary schools. The proposal would have required students in grades 7-12 to put phones in magnetic-locked bags called Yondr pouches throughout the school day to prevent use.
In an Aug. 10 statement posted to the district’s website, Branum said she intends to shift toward a different plan after receiving parent feedback.
"The overwhelming takeaway ... is that parents almost universally agree that cell phones are a distraction for students and a problem in the classroom,” Branum said in a statement. “However, not every parent is sure that the Yondr pouch system is the right solution to assist with enforcement of cell phone-free campuses.”
Branum stated that feedback from parents included concerns with the cost of implementing the pouch system, concerns about being able to reach their children in a potential safety situation and questions over the program’s effectiveness.
Branum said she plans to implement a pilot program of the Yondr pouch system at Forest Meadow Junior High instead of districtwide. Running the pilot program is expected to cost $25,000, according to district officials.
“The advantage of a pilot program is that it will allow RISD to gather more data to see how effective the Yondr system is before investing in a districtwide solution,” Branum said.
The original proposal stated the district would provide every secondary student a Yondr pouch soon into the school year. Students would have still been able to communicate with parents either via laptops provided by the district or by getting access to their phones in the event of an emergency, according to the district. RISD has over 16,000 students among its eight junior high and four high school campuses, according to 2021 district data.
Branum first announced her plans for the cell phone restrictions in an Aug. 6 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.
More information on the Aug. 11 RISD board of trustees meeting can be seen here.