In a move aimed at addressing the growing concerns of excessive cell phone usage in schools, Akron Public Schools has announced its decision to expand a successfully tested pilot program that locks students’ cell phones away throughout the school day.
The program, known as Yondr, utilizes magnetically locked cell phone pouches, commonly seen in comedy clubs and private venues, to ensure students stay focused on their education. While the students will carry the pouches with them throughout the day, they will not have access to their phones until the end of the school day when the magnetic unlocking system opens the pouches.
The Akron Board of Education, recognizing the largely positive response to the pilot program, has approved funding for the implementation of the Yondr program district-wide in response to the problems arising from excessive cell phone usage, which often included fake social media threats, staged fights, and incidents of bullying.
AKRON, Ohio — Akron Public Schools Board of Education on Monday approved funding to require secondary students to keep their cell phones in magnetically locked cases called Yondr bags during the school day. https://t.co/mvWrMETK2H
— Honesty For Ohio Education (@Honesty4OhioEd) June 27, 2023
The district’s Director of Security, Don Zesiger, expressed his concerns regarding phone usage, stating, “Fake social media threats have kept us very busy chasing nonsense. Staging fights and filming fights was a big problem for us. And then social media, bullying, and things that happened throughout the day.”
During the pilot program testing, President of the Akron Education Association, Pat Shipe, reportedly witnessed firsthand the positive impact of the Yondr program. Shipe reported that evidence of calm and security was observed in the school buildings, classrooms, and hallways as the program effectively curbed the excessive use of cell phones, enabling students to focus on their studies.
While students expressed concerns about the program, such as the inability to contact their families during emergencies, the district made provisions for exceptions. According to the district, field trips and students requiring their phones for medical reasons, such as insulin monitoring, will be accommodated within the program’s guidelines.
Despite students’ opposition, many parents and staff alike have welcomed the program’s implementation. According to a survey conducted by the school district, in which over 100 parents participated, approximately 70% of parents held concerns that their children were spending too much time on their cell phones.
Furthermore, 75% thought that phone usage in school had a negative impact on their children’s educational experience.
School staff also expressed their support for the program in the survey, with almost 90% of the 194 staff members surveyed agreeing or strongly agreeing that the program should continue. Furthermore, 96% of the responding staff believed that students were more productive without constant access to their phones.
The policy, which will affect about 10,000 middle and high school students across Akron Public Schools, will go into effect next school year.