Monroe Schools poised to set all-day phone ban

The Monroe School Board on May 13, 2024 as captured through a district board recording.

The Monroe School Board on May 13, 2024 as captured through a district board recording.

MONROE — The school board appears ready to adopt restrictions on cell phones and other electronic devices such as headphones during all times of the school day for all students starting this fall.

Some on the board said they’d like to extend the restrictions to while riding on school buses.

The board is due to make a formal decision by September.

No board member supported an alternate option presented that allows high schoolers to have devices just at lunchtime.

Banning on buses would require more conversation, Superintendent Shawn Woodward said at last week’s board meeting.

Exceptions would be granted for students whose documented learning plans, 504 disability plans or medical plans require having devices such as cell phones.

The district surveyed the public a while ago. Teachers consider phones a problem, and parents have mixed concerns. Students responded that headphones should still be allowed for studying.

A high school student representative to the board noted classes where phones cause students to ignore each other, but for lunch or downtime periods phones are the way for students to connect with others not near them.

“What if you need to make plans” after school, the representative said.

Listening to music over the phone is also worthwhile while riding the bus, the representative said.

Board member Jeremiah Campbell shared in written comments that he’d support an all-day ban based on the research presented and the “negative effects on students.”

“I know this will be a difficult shift ... but their success is more important,” Campbell wrote.

Board member Molly Barnes agreed. “Their success ... is far more important than a small inconvenience of being able to use your cell phone during the day at school,” Barnes said.

Board member Chuck Whitfield said “we’re here to educate kids and it’s about education,” calling the consequences of bullying by cell phone horrendous for mental health.

Whitfield pointed to a letter submitted by the Monroe Community Coalition that heavy phone use causes lower academic performance, poor emotional regulation and plus having a phone opens the potential for looking up answers to cheat on tests.

More than three-fourths of school districts nationwide have restrictions, according to the Monroe Community Coalition. The Coalition is a health and wellness group.

Monroe would use progressive disciplinary measures to handle violations, Woodward said, starting with a verbal warning.

SRO contract re-upped

The district will continue contracting to have Monroe Police provide a full-time school resource officer (SRO) in its schools.

The board overwhelmingly supports keeping an SRO. Board members praised current SRO Craig Robertson last week. Named the department’s Officer of the Year in 2018, he changed over to the school district beat in 2020.

The new contract cost is approximately $99,500. The monthly fee for January through June is still to be calculated for inflation.

The SRO’s role does not include immigration enforcement, and the contract explicitly outlines to not feed immigration information to federal authorities.