Opinion: Banning Cell Phones in the Classroom Won’t Fix Student Engagement


Despite different efforts to reengage students in the classroom, districts across the state of Texas have resorted to banning cell phones in school completely. Photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash

The Rider Online Staff

As more Texas school districts prohibit phone use, school boards are discussing the possibility, and Mansfield ISD could soon join the conversation. Rather than restricting all personal devices, the district should consider alternate ways of improving student behavior and enforcing rules already in place. 

When students use their phones at inappropriate times, the Student Code of Conduct allows campus staff to send the phones to the bookkeeper where they can be picked up for a fee. This rule has relaxed over time, and consequently, phone use has increased. Students take the teachers’ leniency for granted, and until the rule is enforced, many of them won’t take it seriously. 

Cell phones provide communication that is vital to students. They use their phones not only to communicate with their families but also with their teachers and fellow members of clubs and organizations. So, in addition to taking away parents’ feelings of comfort, sponsors and teachers couldn’t contact their students with any last-minute changes, updates or reminders. 

Not including the price of the phone itself, a cell phone plan for one person is around $70.  It costs $15 to retrieve your cell phone once it’s been turned into the office. If someone misuses their phone and pays the fee a few times a month, they spend almost as much money getting their phone as they do for their ability to use it. By tightening restrictions on cell phone use, students will learn how to use their phones respectfully and effectively in the classroom and in other professional settings.

Cell phones cause problems during class and prevent students from completing their work. However, the issue lies with distractions in general rather than phones specifically. Taking away phones restricts communication, but students who are determined to not pay attention will always find another way to distract themselves. They can sleep, surf the internet on their Chromebooks, zone out or cause other disruptions. Instead, school staff should address the problem at its root and focus on teaching students how to be respectful of teachers’ time and efforts. 

A phone ban might have positive long-term effects, but the difference it makes isn’t large enough to justify the loss of communication. Putting cell phones in calculator pockets is always an option, but for now, the school administration should start by tightening the current restrictions and enforcing a culture of respect, rather than removing phones from the classroom entirely.