New district-wide electronic device policy is creating unexpected benefits in Huntsville schools

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - Huntsville City Schools are implementing a new district-wide personal electronic device policy this year. The policy is that ALL electronic devices are required to be put away during school hours.

Last year, Huntsville Junior High School teachers found a digital distraction in their classrooms.

"A lot of times kids have them and are trying to look down in their laps during class," said 8th-grade teacher Jennifer Dill.

So the then-new principal, Gregory L. Hicks, laid down a new law: no electronic devices are to be used at all during the school day.

"It became more obvious that the phones were more of a distraction," Dill said. "That if you needed to do something on a computer, you have a device you can use that's school approved and has all the blocking devices on it, whereas a phone would not."

Students caught on to these rules quickly.

"They soon found we were very diligent about what we said we were going to do," Hicks said.

"If I see a phone, I'm supposed to ask the student for the phone," Dill explained. "Most students give it to the teacher. Because they understand the ramifications of not giving it to the teacher are worse."

Administrators found that not only did the policy decrease classroom disruptions but increased positive social interactions among the students.

"[My son] actually told me in 8th-grade when they weren't able to use them. He said, 'Mom, I made more friends in 8th grade than in 7th grade because in 7th grade at lunchtime, we sat on our phones,'" said parent Anne Kvach.

Now the entire district is adopting the same policy.

"I think keeping it really consistent just makes it simpler for everybody," Dill said.

Devices are to stay in the locker from the start of school until the final bell.

"From an academic standpoint I think it's great, from a social standpoint I think it's great, so I'm very supportive of what the school district has decided," Kvach said.

The official policy is any teacher or school administrator can confiscate devices like phones, smartwatches, and earphones if they see them. Then the device is kept in the principal's office until a parent comes and picks it up.

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