Right now, the cellphone policies at schools in Massachusetts vary by district, but state education officials say phones have become such a distraction that they are trying to figure out the right way to restrict them.
At a meeting this week, students and teachers from across the state weighed in on various ways to get students to put cellphones away.
In Quincy, school officials are already trying it out. As of this year, the district has a policy that restricts cellphone usage at schools. In elementary schools, cellphones are banned. In middle schools, they have to be kept in a locker, and at the high school they can only be used at lunch and during passing times.
Quincy School Superintendent Kevin Mulvey said so far the feedback has been positive, but they did hear from a few parents who were initially concerned about safety. Cellphones are often a lifeline between parents and their children, but they can also be a constant distraction during class.
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“It is a balance. That’s why particularly at the high school, we allow access to the phones, but they have to have responsible access. And during emergency situations, we put out information to the community,” Mulvey said.
Finding the right way to dial it back is what the state’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is trying to figure out. There is no mandate, but they are considering rewarding districts that restrict them with grant money.
At the Eliot K-8 Innovation School in Boston, they are doing it differently. They require students to put their phones in magnetically sealed pouches that can only be unlocked by a teacher.
“When you have a cellphone in your pocket, the urge is there,” said Tracy Walker Griffith, the school's executive director. “This way, even during an emergency, teachers can unlock them once they get to a safe space.”