Charlottesville Schools Ban Student Cell Phones

A Yondr cell phone pouch.

by James A. Bacon

The Charlottesville public school system has banned the students’ use of cell phones. Superintendent Royal Gurley decries students’ “addiction” to the mobile devices, and teachers have complained that the phones have become a tremendous disruption in the classroom, reports The Daily Progress. The restrictions, school officials hope, will “increase connectivity between classmates and teachers improve mental well-being.”

Predictably, some parents are pushing back.

“It’s too extreme,” M.J. Smith, whose son is a senior at Charlottesville High School, told The Daily Progress. “I think it’s in the right place, but it comes across as heavy-handed and not well thought out in light of the active anxiety that the community is facing with another school year and active shooter robocalls. We’re all worried about that.”

I’ve got some questions for parents opposed to the ban.

Do you have the faintest idea of how disruptive the cell phones are? Do you know how much rampant cell phone use is disrupting your kid’s education?

What is more important: soothing your temporary anxiety about your kid’s safety in the improbable event of an active-shooting event, or creating an environment where your kid can learn?

Bacon’s Rebellion wrote more than a year ago about how students were continually distracted by their phones. Instead of focusing on classroom instruction, many students texted one another, surfed the Web, watched videos, and listened to music. One by one, schools and even school systems have been restricting cell phone usage — Fairfax County, Alexandria, Hopewell, and Virginia Beach, among others.

Many pundits have blamed the slide in Standards of Learning (SOL) scores on COVID-related lockdowns. The shift to remote learning undoubtedly played a significant role in the collapse in learning, but the story was bigger than that. Scores continued to slide even when kids returned to school. Amidst the backdrop of eroding authority and physical altercations, adults in some schools found themselves unable to maintain basic standards of behavior. Disorder spread. At many schools, students routinely used their cell phones during class.

The ban on cell phones represents a necessary step to restoring a healthy learning environment. Charlottesville school officials deserve kudos for finally recognizing the obvious and forging ahead in the face of the inevitable controversy.

Students will be required to put their phones in magnetically sealed pouches. The pouches, provided by Yondr, can be opened only at released stations at the school exits at the end of the day.

It would be interesting to compare educational outcomes of school systems that banned cell phones with systems that have not yet taken the step. One key measure, the Standards of Learning (SOL) test scores, should be available any day. In past years, the SOLs have been announced by this time. For whatever reason, the Youngkin administration has not yet made the scores public.


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76 responses to “Charlottesville Schools Ban Student Cell Phones”

  1. How long will it take for a tech-savvy student to figure how to open one of these cell-phone containers?

  2. Kathleen Smith Avatar
    Kathleen Smith

    Important step in keeping teachers in classrooms.

  3. Teddy007 Avatar

    This issue has come and gone across the years. I guess we are back to hating the cell phone or Ipad or chromebook.

  4. how_it_works Avatar
    how_it_works

    I still remember how pagers were banned by Prince William County Schools (supposedly, because they might be used by drug dealers).

    That was back in the early 90s, for those of you who think that PWC wasn’t rotting as far back as then.

    1. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
      James Wyatt Whitehead

      I used to pinch the drug dealing pager boys all the time. They were so easy to bust! And when they tried to flee it was even easier to catch them. The baggy pants half way down the hip fad caused the trousers to slip to the knees at a full speed run. A trip and fall later, I had’em. In those days dealing was automatic expulsion. Today it is a phone call, counseling, and minor fine.

  5. LarrytheG Avatar
    LarrytheG

    I am curious. What do private schools do?

    Do they have a better way that public schools might consider?

    What I’ve heard in my neck of the woods is that kids with cell phones is a safety issue… that parents need know their kids are “safe”…

    And there is a certain irony in that of late there are more than a few folks descrying the harm that social media does to kids… and one presumes happens at school also?

    1. Nancy Naive Avatar
      Nancy Naive

      Buy ‘em EPIRBs or PLBs.

    2. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
      James Wyatt Whitehead

      At Fork Union Military Academy, you cannot possess a cell phone. Students use the school issued laptops for communication. They have 24 hour paid surveillance to monitor what is communicated. Fool proof and brilliant.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar
        LarrytheG

        They can’t have one on campus – period?

        How medieval!

        1. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
          James Wyatt Whitehead

          Isn’t it wonderfully devious? Mr. Larry those kids really learn at FUMA. I spent two days there. Talked to everybody. Observed instructional and administrative practices. Not for everyone but impressive results for those who buy into the program.

          1. LarrytheG Avatar
            LarrytheG

            If those kids do well, not a bad thing… For the rest, we’d not yet figured out how to proceed , short of what FUMA is doing. I see ads on TV all the time these days decrying the terrible things that happen to kids that spend their time on social media on their phones…. we don’t know/don’t agree what to do about it… We used to forbid kids from going to bad sections of town or hang out with the wrong other kids… but that phone puts all of them right there anytime they want….

    3. What I’ve heard in my neck of the woods is that kids with cell phones is a safety issue… that parents need know their kids are “safe”…

      Helicopter parents gotta hover.

    4. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
      Dick Hall-Sizemore

      How many of those parents in Spotsylvania who worry about their kids being safe in schools support stronger gun laws?

      1. Guns are already banned from our schools.

        1. Lefty665 Avatar

          Dick would like to see them double banned. That worked so well for Dean Wormser in Animal House.

          1. Nancy Naive Avatar
            Nancy Naive

            Wormer. Dean Wormer. It’s my email address.

          2. Lefty665 Avatar

            So that’s why I’ve been getting bounce backs. I was afraid I’d offended you. 🙂

      2. Lefty665 Avatar

        Why should they? We don’t enforce the gun laws we already have.

        1. Nancy Naive Avatar
          Nancy Naive

          Well, look up the FIRST piece of legislation passed by the GOP majority Congress and signed into Law by a GOP president in January 2017, then say how many laws we already have.
          Hint: it involved returning gun ownership to persons adjudicated crazy (nonlegal/medical term).

          1. It is not the job of the Social Security Administration to set Rules regarding who is qualified to own a gun.

            The bill the president signed was endorsed by the ACLU and numerous disability rights organizations.

        2. You’re absolutely right.

          We should spend some time playing with the toys we’ve already been given before whining for more. Who knows, maybe we’ll realize we don’t need any new toys.

      3. LarrytheG Avatar
        LarrytheG

        oh separate issue! 😉

    5. Nancy Naive Avatar
      Nancy Naive

      Buy ‘em EPIRBs or PLBs.

      1. I had to look up what you were referring to.

        In the “old days” we called them ELT (Emergency Locator Transmitter).

  6. Lefty665 Avatar

    But I don’t understand. C’ville has designated 86% of its students as gifted. Certainly with that many gifted kids there can’t be a problem with discipline can there? Is it the 14% ungifted with phones that are causing all the problems?

    However, it is nice to see equity in action in banning all phones. M J Smith’s complaint that the ban is “heavy handed” is clearly anti equity. Also, with phones banned all students will feel more included in class. The only downside is that there will be no diversity in phone usage.

    1. Nancy Naive Avatar
      Nancy Naive

      86% are gifted, all are above average.

  7. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    Minor peeve. If you’re going to remove cellphones, get rid of calculators until 10th grade. Either that or have them surgically implanted on their forearm.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar
      LarrytheG

      or only in a pocket protector? 😉

      1. Nancy Naive Avatar
        Nancy Naive

        Bring back slide rules.

        1. LarrytheG Avatar
          LarrytheG

          My first program was on a TI-59… I had an emulator… I’d develop the code on the emulator, then compile it and download to a magnetic strip that the TI-59 would “read”. It was a quick and dirty targetting app….

        2. John Harvie Avatar
          John Harvie

          Do you still know how to use one? Got my old K&E out some time ago and just blanked out. How soon we forget.

          1. I have a hard time remembering how to use one also.

            The Hewlett Packard HP41 ruined me for slide rules. I still use that calculator, and some of the programs I wrote for it, to this day.

            The physical calculators can be quite wonky given their age, but I have an app on my phone that perfectly emulates the HP41CX and any/all of its plug-in modules. It can even emulate the tactile feel of pushing the buttons.

          2. Nancy Naive Avatar
            Nancy Naive

            It’s like riding a bicycle. Just don’t use it for your taxes.

          3. I have a hard time remembering how to use one also.

            The Hewlett Packard HP41 ruined me for slide rules. I still use that calculator, and some of the programs I wrote for it, to this day.

            The actual calculators can be quite wonky given their age, but I have an app on my phone that perfectly emulates the HP41CX and any/all of its plug-in modules. It can even provide “haptic feedback” – that is, it imitates the tactile feel of pushing the buttons.

          4. LarrytheG Avatar
            LarrytheG

            reverse polish much on the algorihims?

          5. I’ve been using RPN for so long that I am all but worthless on a standard calculator. Kind of like trying to remember how to use a slide rule…

            I have an original HP-35 calculator. It still functions but a couple of the LED segments are burned out so it can be hard to tell if you’ve got the correct answer (is that a 6 or an 8? a 9 or a 5?). Those things cost $395 in 1972 (about $2,800 in today’s dollars) – but they were considered worth the price by most who replaced their slide rule with one.

          6. LarrytheG Avatar
            LarrytheG

            It’s an issue in evaluating algorithms with various different calculators and computers, compilers… especially when trying to verify/validate/checkout the coded algorithm. Seen some interesting analysis when a computer program was spitting out results that were different than hand-cases or same algorithm implemented on different computers….

          7. Matt Adams Avatar
            Matt Adams

            Ironic we were allowed to use powerful calculators in college. Although, most of my professors would require you clear the memory before tests.

            I just remember the FE exam being very specific about the calculator TI-30 series, Casio fx-115 and HP-35’s, only.

          8. They also allowed the HP-11C, but not the 15C – and certainly not the HP41.

          9. Matt Adams Avatar
            Matt Adams

            They are getting pretty savvy, now. They tell you which ones you can use, where on Amazon to buy them. They also can’t have the cover on them when you come into the testing center.

          10. LarrytheG Avatar
            LarrytheG

            These were ubiquitous back in the day. Every analyst had one but if a “hand case” was to be done, we used this:

            https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/c07f0cc7d736520dde96c1edf779ef75df2a40c7d4b00d974b371a9e35cfa807.jpg

            A “hand case” might take most of the day to get done and they’d often have two or three “aids” do the work to make sure they matched!

          11. I think that might be a little bulky to use on the space shuttle…

            😉

          12. LarrytheG Avatar
            LarrytheG

            You used them on the ground doing check-out for the algorithms that would be on
            the embedded computer systems…

          13. Lefty665 Avatar

            I never liked the reverse Polish notation on the HPs. The TI equivalents were nice, and with a print cradle I actually did budgets on them.

            Dunno what happened to mine, they may be buried in the basement along with the 8″ floppy drives.

          14. Being able to effectively use RPN allows for fewer keystrokes when performing multiple/complex computations and reduced memory usage when writing programs.

            It was intuitive for me from the first time I was exposed to it – just like the controls on a motorcycle were. It’s hard to predict what’s going to come naturally to you

          15. LarrytheG Avatar
            LarrytheG

            If you do it right, it saves having to write down and re-enter intermediate data and in earlier day computer systems, it saved memory for storing the operators for the algorithms.

            Checking out algorithms often involved taking them apart piecemeal to check on intermediate data…

            If you were using different computer systems to develop the algorithms than the embedded one , it mattered what operators gone done in what order between the different computer systems…

            The govt pays good money for folks to do this right!

            😉

          16. Lefty665 Avatar

            Sigh, guess that explains why I liked tank shifts on Harleys. 🙁

    2. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
      James Wyatt Whitehead

      My 15 year old loves to do the math in her head. Human calculator. Very handy for projects around the house or VW engine repairs. No batteries needed. Just lots of gummy bears.

      1. Lefty665 Avatar

        Long ago I had an Indian accountant working for me. They had no calculators in school in India when she was growing up so they all learned to add long strings of figures in their heads. We’d be working on something and out of the corner of my eye I’d see her drumming her fingers impatiently while waiting for me to finish hammering the numbers into an adding machine. I eventually learned to just ask her for the answer.

      2. LarrytheG Avatar
        LarrytheG

        Where I worked for 34 years, 3/4 of the staff were BS/MS Mathematicians who had to have at least a 3.0 to get hired.

        I started there with zero college.

  8. How long will it take for a tech-savvy student to figure how to open one of these cell-phone containers?

    1. Kathleen Smith Avatar
      Kathleen Smith

      Not long at all!

      1. Exactly. This is why the better plan is to adopt a rule banning cell phone use during class, and then take disciplinary action against those who violate the rule.

        Relying on a cloth sack to keep students from violating the cell phone ban is like relying on lectures about abstinence to prevent teen pregnancy.

        But, apparently, schools are afraid to discipline students, and cloth cell phone sacks are the result.

        1. Kathleen Smith Avatar
          Kathleen Smith

          Disciplinary action brings parents. Parents bring trouble. Principals are trained to buffer not bridge trouble.

        2. Matt Adams Avatar
          Matt Adams

          Make each room a Faraday cage on a switch, nothing in or out unless it’s hardwired.

          1. Lefty665 Avatar

            Might be cheaper to wrap the school. That would cut down on hallway and assembly chaos too, and solve that pesky budget surplus problem. 🙂

        3. James Kiser Avatar
          James Kiser

          and what pray tell will that action be,pretty please don’t use it?

          1. Confiscation would work. Off the top of my head:
            First Offense: One week.
            2nd Offense: 2 weeks.
            3rd offense: ISS (without the phone).

    2. DJRippert Avatar
      DJRippert

      Tech savvy? Lol. Tell whoever is watching you put the phone in the bag and lock it that you don’t have a cellphone. Or that you forgot it today.

      Alternately, tell Mommy that you lost your cellphone when you didn’t. After it’s replaced, put the old cellphone in the bag while keeping the new (working) cellphone in your backpack.

  9. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
    James Wyatt Whitehead

    Good job C’ville. You were 15 years late. The kids will outflank this rule. You can watch whatever you want on the I watch. Gotta get these little jewels on the ban list too.
    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/f2e111590e9e9ca3878eac75027d74891c7669c81ac6c6abb0af495a9a851e72.jpg

    1. And it won’t be long before we’ll be able to use the chip in our head to watch whatever we want “in our mind’s eye”…

      😉

      1. Matt Adams Avatar
        Matt Adams

        You didn’t get your arm implant yet?

        1. No, not yet. I don’t even have a “Real ID”.

      2. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
        James Wyatt Whitehead

        And my 15 year old wonders why she is the only kid at Randolph Macon Academy without a cell phone. General Wesley and the teachers love it!

  10. I wonder how much each little cell phone sack costs the taxpayers; and how much each school has to spend on their “release system”.

    I also wonder how many lobbyists Yondr has travelling the country pushing school systems to implement sack-based cell phone bans.

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