New Paltz School Board trustees are going to try to beef up their support for administrators and teachers who wish to control the use of cell phones in their classrooms, but they want to use their authority rather than taxpayer money to make that happen. Teachers, particularly in the high school, have expressed frustration over the proliferation of the devices and the lack of clear policy guidance that would allow them to exercise some control over their use. Trustee Diana Armstead arranged for a presentation by Benji Spanier of Yondr about a locking pouch that could be a solution.
Spanier couched his demonstration of the pouches and locking stations in terms of the wider problem of cell-phone addiction, a problem this company is being positioned to solve. A contract with this district would cost $16 per student in the middle and high schools where it would be utilized, and include training, support and unlimited replacement pouches to account for loss and tampering. Each student would be assigned a pouch for the year, and since the locking stations can be portable there would be flexibility for situations like teachers wanting to have phones available during a class or anxious students who wanted to contact their parents.
No trustee asked about the impact of using these pouches might have during a lockdown situation, but they did ask about free periods. “What better time to be phone-free?” Spanier asked, going on to explain the social benefits of not having screens available at those times. He was less confident when asked about other devices; he seemed caught off guard to learn that students bring their own tablets and laptops from home rather than having them assigned.
Glenn LaPolt warned that “there will be blow-back” if the code of conduct is updated and administrators are directed to empower their teachers when it comes to controlling phones in the classroom. He has heard accounts of students refusing to put away phones when asked, creating a “scene,” only to return from a trip to the office with the phone still in hand and no detention assigned.