Right after Richardson ISD approved her new contract as superintendent on August 10, Tabitha Branum immediately got to work. In the same meeting, Branum had a proposal involving an update on the student cellphone policy: locking up phones in special pockets (called Yondr pouches) during school hours. Many parents, however, were not pleased.
“Cellphone use among RISD secondary students during the school day has become a major issue, especially in recent years,” Branum said in a statement. "We’ve also experienced a wide variety of disciplinary issues that are the product of student smartphone use during the school day, including student altercations, cyberbullying, prohibited activity, photos and videos in violation of other student’s privacy rights, and social media posts or texts that result in safety concerns on campuses.”
Apparently, the proposal got a big parent reaction because an official release said that the district received some concerned feedback. Some parents mentioned the cost of implementing the policy districtwide, while others cited concerns about being able to reach students in potential safety situations.
“These are valid and fair questions, and I want to share that when our principals and I meet with our school board this week, we will be modifying the cellphone discussion to address this feedback,” said Branum in the release.
Because of this, the district will scale back the Yondr system implementation from a districtwide program to one pilot campus at Forest Meadow Junior High, in hopes of gathering more data on the effectiveness of the system. The district intends to track and compare teacher feedback and data on phone-related discipline situations to evaluate how the pilot campus compares to other campuses that will only re-emphasize the traditional policy.
The release also asked parents for help by setting clear expectations for their kids about when and how it’s appropriate (and when it’s not) to use their phones at school. According to Branum, “One thing we know is that students who hear a consistent message at home and at school are more likely to make good choices.”