BROCKTON — The Brockton School Committee voted late Tuesday night to approve the purchase of 4,000 Yondr pouches to begin implementing the district’s cell phone policy at Brockton High School, where many teachers said the policy is massively ignored.
In August 2023, the committee approved the new cell phone policy as an attempt to crack down on student cell phone use during school hours. The policy states that on a student’s third violation, they’ll secure their phones in a magnetized Yondr bag until the end of the school day.
But until now the district never acquired any pouches, so teachers and staff couldn’t enforce the new policy.
Acting Superintendent James Cobbs said at the School Committee meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 6, that the bags could arrive as early as next week, and BHS will immediately start enforcing the current policy while the board reviews a new, more strict policy to enact this school year.
“We’re going to work on that policy and figure it out,” Cobbs said. “There’s an immediate need to do something.”
Students use phones to record fights to post on social media
Many teachers told the committee at last week’s open forum meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 31, that cell phone use is rampant and students disregard staff who try to enforce the policy.
“We’re training students for when they’re out in the real world and they’re many careers that do not allow cell phones, from military during basic training, corrections offices and even surgeons,” said BHS teacher Melissa McLaughlin Tuesday. “Imagine your surgeon checking their Instagram in the middle of your heart surgery.”
The teachers said not only do students use their phones in class but they use them to film and spread details about fights that happen almost daily.
Teachers union President Kimberley Gibson told officials in an impassioned speech at the Jan. 31 meeting that students are posting videos “recorded during the school day showcasing violent and disturbing behavior without any concern for consequences because there aren’t any.”
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Yondr changes policy for Brockton High
Cobbs said in November the school district could only lease bags from Yondr, and the company requires schools to rent enough pouches for every student in the district. Just under 15,000 students are enrolled in all Brockton Public Schools and BHS has 3,586 students, according to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE).
“It’s not a question of the budget or the money,” Cobbs said at a meeting on Nov. 14. “We can’t own the bags, we can’t purchase them, we have to lease them.”
But Cobbs said Tuesday the company changed its policy to allow Brockton to buy bags just for the high school.
The committee unanimously voted to purchase 4,000 Yondr pouches, each costing $40 for a total amount of $137,205. Once the bags arrive, any student who has already reached their third violation will immediately be required to put their phone in a Yondr pouch when in school.
New policy would require Yondr bags for everyone
Cobbs said his cabinet drafted a new cell phone policy for the school committee to review at their next meeting on Feb. 13. The new policy, which he plans to implement before the end of the 2023-24 school year, would require all students to secure their phones in a Yondr bag at the beginning of the day.
The committee said they want to get input from BHS teachers on the new policy before they vote to approve it.
According to some school committee members, Springfield Tech High School — a school with roughly the same student body as BHS — enforced a similar policy last year and saw engagement during class increase by 65%.
What is the current cell phone policy?
The current policy allows students to have their phones with them throughout the school day, but they must be stored away during class time but can be used during breaks like lunch periods.
According to the policy, violations “may lead to referrals to the Associate Principal of Climate and Culture and result in the following:”
- First violation: Written warning and call home to parent/guardian
- Second violation: Associate principal hosts meeting with student and parent/guardian
- Third violation: Student is issued a Yondr pouch that phone must be kept in until further notice