Schools to enforce no cell phone usage

Lincoln Parish School Board and parish schools will not allow cell phone usage on buses or campuses starting this fall.

By Malcolm Butler

Lincoln Parish School Board Superintendent Ricky Durrett released a statement Thursday, communicating to all parents and students that starting in mid-August, cell phone use will no longer be allowed on school buses or campuses throughout the parish.

The message sent out stated:

“Dear Parents and Students,

In an effort to maximize student engagement and decrease distractions during the school day, cell phones will not be allowed for use on school campuses. This ban on usage will also extend to students in transit on Lincoln Parish School Board-owned buses. Our current policy allows students to possess cell phones while at school and on buses but restricts their use unless authorized by the principal or school designee. If a student does decide to bring a cell phone to a school campus, it should be turned off and stored in the student’s backpack, purse, or pocket. Airpods, smart watches and similar devices will not be allowed on school campuses or on school buses. In the event of an actual or imminent threat to public health or safety, the use of phones will be allowed. These changes will go into effect on Aug. 18, 2022. More information will be provided at Prep Days and Open Houses.”

Durrett said that the rule will be enforced throughout the parish on the elementary school, middle school and high school levels starting August 18. He said the action comes after meetings with principals from across the parish as well as some feedback from other districts.

“We’ve allowed the kids to have them out and maybe use them in certain classrooms and maybe use them at lunch,” said Durrett. “All of that has gotten out of hand. Once we became a district with one-to-one (technology), we don’t really need them to get their cell phones out to do any type of research.

“They really have become a distraction in class with kids texting and doing different things with social media and causing problems between kids during the day. Our policy has always said you can have them on campus but need to be put up and turned off. We are just going back to what the policy said now.”

Ruston High School principal Dan Gressett said he feels the policy will benefit teachers and students alike.

“It’s a needed change,” Gressett said. “I think there is some consistency in it. Different schools were doing their own thing, and none of it was really working. We were fighting a losing battle with phones, and the problems that they cause at school.

“The number of notifications that a kid gets throughout the day. The taking pictures of a kid and posting it on social media. The videoing a fight. It’s a long list of things that we deal with every day. A lot of our discipline problems end up stemming from the use of phones.”

Gressett said that he surveyed the teachers at Ruston High last winter, asking for feedback on their thoughts on cell phones.

“Teachers were wanting help,” said Gressett. “They were overwhelmingly in support of help on the cell phone front. There were just a lot of inconsistencies, and this helps. The teachers will know what the expectations are. The kids will know what the expectations are.”

Gressett and Durrett both believe the new policy will help tremendously when it comes to disciplinary issues across the parish.

“It has not been as big of a problem in (grades) three through five,” said Durrett. “It is more of a (grades) six through 12 issue. We met with all the principals a couple of weeks ago, and we all agreed to go back to this. We want to get kids back focused in the classroom and not distracted.”

“It will absolutely, 100 percent cut down on issues,” said Gressett. “Kids have had the ability to message back and forth at school and send stuff and stir things up.  A lot of our issues stem from the use of cell phones during the day. It won’t cut everything out, but it will help us. We are not the first school district to do something. We may actually be behind the times on some of it.

“The teachers were excited. To be honest with you a lot of parents are excited about it. I know a lot of times we only see the negative posts, but silently, there is a lot of support for it from parents.”

Airpods, apple watches and other similar devices will not be allowed on buses or campus this fall.


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