LHS to limit cell phone usage in 2019-2020 school year

Cell phone usage rules are changing at Leeds High School this fall.

As the new school year approaches, Leeds High School will implement a new policy this fall limiting cell phone use during the school day.

Principal Rayford Williams said the purpose of the new policy is to “minimize distractions throughout the school day that may cause a disruption to the learning environment.”

“We also feel that this is another step in helping to prepare our students for life after high school,” he said.

Administration created the policy after reviewing device policies from neighboring school districts, Williams said. The Alabama Department of Education has no overall rule on cell phone use, instead allowing school systems to limit their use as they choose.

The Leeds policy states students will only be permitted to use their device prior to 7:50 a.m. (in the lunchroom), or during their lunch time. Students will be required to place their cell phones in their backpacks throughout the day from 7:50 a.m. to 3:10 p.m., except during their lunch time. Headphones or earbuds will no longer be allowed in classrooms. Cell phones will not be permitted in the hallways.

A telephone will be available in the office for student use for emergency situations. Williams said parents are welcome to call 205-699-4510 to leave a message for their child during the day.

This policy already exists at Leeds Middle School, and many other Alabama school districts have adopted similar policies limiting cell phone over the last few years, including Shelby County schools and Decatur city schools. School districts in Michigan, Ohio, Florida and Texas have also created policies limiting cell phone use during school hours.

For years, teachers at Leeds High School have implemented their own cell phone policies in their classrooms. Some teachers take up phones or store them in pouches when class starts and return them after class ends. Other teachers allow students to use phones during class for research.

Leeds’ new policy has received mixed reviews on an online forum, with many parents saying they support the effort to reduce cell phone use during learning time, adding that they survived school before cell phones were invented. Other parents said they were not happy about the policy because they like being able to reach their teens during the day.

Some rising ninth graders said they were upset about the new rule because they had looked forward to a looser cell phone policy at the high school than they had at the middle school.

Studies back up limiting cell phone usage at school. A recent study by professors at Rutgers University showed students with access to a cell phone scored about half a letter grade lower on exams than counterparts who didn’t have access to technology.

And the lower scores carried over to students who didn’t use a device but were in the classroom with those who did, the study showed.

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