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Park City School District seeking feedback on proposed no-cellphone policy

A ninth grader places her cellphone in to a phone holder as she enters class at Delta High School, Friday, Feb. 23, 2024, in Delta, Utah. At the rural Utah school, there is a strict policy requiring students to check their phones at the door when entering every class. Each classroom has a cellphone storage unit that looks like an over-the-door shoe bag with three dozen smartphone-sized slots. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
Rick Bowmer
/
AP Photo
A ninth grader places her cellphone into a phone holder as she enters class at Delta High School, Friday, Feb. 23, 2024, in Delta, Utah. At the rural Utah school, there is a strict policy requiring students to check their phones at the door when entering every class. Each classroom has a cellphone storage unit that looks like an over-the-door shoe bag with three dozen smartphone-sized slots. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

The Park City School District is proposing a new cell phone policy and wants community feedback. It would prohibit cellphone use during school hours.

Based on conversations with staff, students and parents, the district determined cellphone use should be limited during school hours so students can stay engaged. This is reflected in a new proposed cellphone policy. If the policy is passed, students would not be allowed to use phones during school hours. Students would have to keep their devices in a secure place out of sight during the day, like in a locker, backpack or other storage container the school provides.

However, there are exceptions. Some students need cellphones to monitor health concerns or for translation purposes and as long as the need is documented in a student’s individualized plan, they can continue to use a phone.

The policy was presented at a board meeting June 18 and Board Vice President Wendy Crossland hopes the community will provide feedback.

“I would encourage people to look at that and submit comments. If they're thoughtful, concerned, have ideas about it, since this is a new policy and something we're trying to move forward along,” she said.

The district has engaged with staff, parents and students in conversations about cellphone use in schools throughout the past few months. During a panel in May, Treasure Mountain Junior High Principal Caleb Fine talked about how difficult it can be to manage cellphone use in a classroom and how much it can be a distraction.

A second panel in June discussed more about the negative effects of social media. A parent and student shared personal experiences of online bullying and it leading to an eating disorder. Fine even said social media platform Snapchat was his “version of the devil.” The panel and many in the audience agreed it would be best to delay children’s access to smartphones for as long as possible and have a no-cellphone policy in schools.

The district also sent a cellphone use survey to staff, parents and students in May, which received over 900 responses. While the results are not yet available, Superintendent Jill Gildea said during a June board meeting there was a lot of support for a no-cellphone policy.

“There does seem to be good support, especially at that junior high level, for trying to do some more untethering with kids,” she said. “What we're finding in the research and in practice is we're very overprotective of our students in real life, in what we're allowing them to do from an independent standpoint, but we're very underprotective in what's occurring online.”

That’s based on national research and local trends the district has seen.

The district board will have a second reading and consider passing the policy at its next meeting August 20. The community can comment during the board meeting or share their thoughts via email at communication@pcschools.us.