ROCK SPRINGS — Now that the school year is about 2/3 complete, what is the result of the new cell phone policies in Sweetwater County School District #1?
The Board of Trustees enacted the policy just before the school year when it approved the district handbook at its August meeting. While the board received some push back, most of the staff and parents in the district were on board with the new plan.
By almost all accounts, the new cell phone policy has resulted in better classroom engagement between teachers and students, better conflict resolution between students, and fewer behavioral issues. Several district administrators presented the results at the board’s meeting last week.
Rock Springs Junior High Assistant Principal Sean Grube told the board that conflicts which used to escalate over a school day through applications like Snapchat and Instagram, or text messaging, have diminished significantly this year.
Grube said his staff held a meeting before the school year and everyone agreed that teachers should limit their amount of cell phone use as well if they expected students to respect the policy.
“If the students are there to learn, then the teachers are there to teach, and they’ve all stepped up and put their phones away too,” Grube said.
The policy may be having the greatest impact at Rock Springs High School. While the policy is a bit more lenient there (students can use their phones between classes and at lunchtime), numbers show a large decrease in cell phone violations since the beginning of the year.
Assistant Principal Glen Suppes attributes part of that to the high school’s new block scheduling, combined lunches and other factors that support better supervision around the school.
“These changes have reshaped Rock Springs High School. This is not the same school as last year,” Suppes said.
The number of out-of-school suspensions between the first semester of 2018-19 and 2019-20 plummeted by 67%. A staff survey also shows that most teachers believe the policy is working, and despite a few confrontations, most students are complying with the changes.
In addition to reduced suspensions and in-school physical altercations, Human Resources Director Nicole Bolton said the district “has had an unbelievable amount of parent support on this.”
Parents must come to school and retrieve phones after a first offense, and Bolton said she’s heard parents tell their students that they will just confiscate their phones entirely if violations continue.
“This whole procedure came up to limit distractions in the classroom during learning,” Bolton said. “It’s really had some positive unintended consequences and that’s the face-to-face conversations students are being forced to have instead of communicating through a phone.”