Photo by Metro Creative Connection.

After hearing from district parents and teachers, Richardson ISD Superintendent Tabitha Branum will scale back her proposal to use Yondr pouches to restrict student cellphone use in all junior high and high school classrooms. Instead, Forest Meadow Junior High in Lake Highlands would implement the program, and results there would be used to determine whether the cellphone locking system should be used districtwide.

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In a Wednesday email, Branum thanked those who shared feedback and said she considered “parent input an important factor in school district decisions.”

“The overwhelming takeaway from the feedback is that parents almost universally agree that cellphones are a distraction for students and a problem in the classroom. I can tell you that our principals and many secondary teachers strongly agree with this as well.”

Some parents cited concerns about the cost of using Yondr, which would rent locking pouches for about $16 each to RISD. If implemented districtwide, the contract would have totaled $401,000. Other parents worried they’d be unable to reach students in potential safety situations, particularly a Uvalde-style school shooting. A few parents questioned the effectiveness of the pouches given tricks and tools available online to thwart them.

Implementing a pilot program at Forest Meadow would permit RISD to gather more data on the effectiveness of the pouches. District officials plan to track phone-related classroom incidents and other discipline issues involving cellphones, such as bullying, fights, drugs and other problems. They’ll compare how the pilot Yondr campus fares compared to schools which re-emphasize traditional enforcement.

RISD’s current cellphone policy, in place since 2012, prohibits student cellphone use in classrooms without permission. Teachers say they spend an inordinate amount of class time working to enforce the policy, but teens, like adults, struggle to put away the devices.

Branum closed with a plea to parents.

“Regardless of the path that RISD takes, parents who choose to provide their child with a cellphone can greatly assist their child’s teachers and principals by setting clear expectations for their child about when and how it’s appropriate, and not appropriate, to use their phone related to school,” Branum said. “One thing we know is that students who hear a consistent message at home and at school are more likely to make good choices, and our professional educators who work with your students are asking for your help on this topic that has long had an impact on teaching, learning and discipline.”

More resources on student cellphone use may be found here.

Branum will share details of her revised plan with RISD trustees at tonight’s board meeting. The new Yondr contract totals under $50,000, so it does not require approval of the board. The meeting begins at 6 p.m. and may be watched online here.