Richardson ISD set to expand use of locking cell phone pouches

Richardson ISD is expanding its pilot program that utilizes pouches to keep cell phones out of students' hands during the school day. 

New data showed significant benefits after Forest Meadow Junior High used the pouches for a year. Now, four more principals say they want to use the tool on their campuses.

Last fall, Richardson ISD rolled out a program to test a new tool to lock up student cell phones in hopes of unlocking learning. Now, the district says it worked. 

Richardson ISD Superintendent Tabitha Branum said the data was clear and shows the district's revamped cell phone-free policy worked well district-wide.


Richardson ISD students hate the district's new cellphone-free policy, they also admit it works

Richardson ISD is reporting positive results from strictly enforcing a cellphone-free school environment, including Forest Meadow Junior High, where the district is testing out pouches that lock phones during the school day.

"Based on teacher feedback, cell phones were a major distraction," she said. "85% of teachers said they got more instructional time back with cell phone-free environment."

And a pilot program that went a step further and provided pouches to keep cellphones locked away from students showed even more remarkable results. One example is Forest Meadow Elementary.

"At our Forest Meadow pilot, 100% of teachers said they got more instructional time back.

Area Superintendent Jennie Bates says staff was 100 percent on board with keeping phones locked up in a pouch by a company called Yondr. 

"It was one of the smoothest rollouts I've ever seen," she said. "They wanted to sum it up that Yondr changed their lives."

Branum says discipline issues and cyberbullying decreased, and student social interactions improved. 

"At lunch, students were playing Uno and chess and games and talking," she said.

Principals at Lake Highlands High School and three additional junior highs told board members that they want to try out the Yondr pouches at their campuses.

"I believe Yondr will help give us consistency," said Lake Highlands High Principal Kerri Jones.

Jones explained without the pouches that confiscating cell phones last school year was necessary but time-consuming. 

"Often, I would keep the phones on to hear how many disruptions they would get, and they were dinging throughout the day, social media, alerts, texts, alarms, phone calls," she said "It was unbelievable, and these kids were not ignoring that in class. They are distractions."

At a cost of $17 per student, school board members granted the principals' request. 

While last August, many parents were concerned about communicating with their children without cell phones, a survey shows 80% of Forest Meadow parents support the cell phone-free environment. 

Branum says parents have seen they can communicate by email with students during the school day and the front office.