CMS to ban student cellphone use during class this year

CHARLOTTE — The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools district is planning to crack down on students who are on their phones or on social media during the school day.

The district already has a policy in the code of conduct about students having their phones out during instruction.

However, Superintendent Crystal Hill said this upcoming school year that policy will be enforced at the district level.

“We are going back to that, this year. It’s new,” Hill said. “Students will not use their cellphones ... during instructional time.”

That decision has a lot to do with student behavior issues last school year because often, fights are recorded on cellphones and posted to social media.

“Principals have the opportunity to provide flexibility for students to use them during lunch, class change, whenever,” Hill said. “But during the instructional day, cellphones should not be used, and that is something that we’re pushing forward.”

Educators, including Amanda Thompson who is a professional coach for teachers across the district, said navigating a student’s cellphone use in school can be tricky for teachers and administrators.

“I am a proponent of using technology,” Thompson said. “The issue is that our students get their cellphones and do all kinds of things that are not educationally based, and that’s when the distractions come up.”

However, Thompson worries about how well the policy will be enforced across a district of 184 schools and more than 142,000 students.

The code of conduct calls for the student’s phone or device to be confiscated and locked up in the office for a first offense.

The student must leave their phone or device in the office each day after a fourth offense.

“It’s definitely putting it back on the school to enforce a policy,” Thompson said. “I think the policy has always been there.”

Thompson thinks enforcing the rule will take creativity.

“When I was a teacher, I actually had like a little cellphone cubby where my students put their cellphones in a cubby and they knew after class, they would get it,” Thompson said. “But see, they had to trade their cellphone for a calculator.”

Some parents, who disagree with stepped-up enforcement of the district’s cellphone policy, believe it’s shortsighted.

“(There is) a lot of stuff that goes on in these schools that these teachers don’t know about,” said Sheneka Barnhart, a parent. “I feel like (students) should have it because you never know if something could happen, a situation could happen in school, a shooter. Kids need to call their mom.”

That policy also says students, who are caught gaming on personal devices or their Chromebooks, will receive disciplinary consequences, in addition to having the device confiscated.

Jonathan Lowe

Jonathan Lowe, wsoctv.com

Jonathan is a reporter for WSOC-TV.