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Columbia Public Schools teachers detail cellphone procedure plan


A group of teachers from Columbia Public Schools detailed ways they plan to make the procedure for the use of cellphones consistent among schools during Monday night's board meeting.

According to the district, they have heard from "multiple stakeholders, internally and externally, that cell phones are causing  a distraction to learning environment." Due to this, teachers among CPS high schools and middle schools are working to ensure the procedure is the same across all schools during the 2024-2025 school year.

The group discussed making cellphones and smart devices prohibited in classrooms, hallways and locker rooms during in-school hours from 7:25 a.m.-2:35 p.m.

Teachers also discussed making the procedure for high schools less strict, because middle schools are "more far along" than high schools. The group said they plan to prohibit cellphones in all learning environments.

The group stated they are looking into implementing a "stop light system" to depict when something is considered a learning environment. If a red card is held up by a teacher, it means it's a learning environment and students cannot use their devices.

Green would mean the use of cellphones is allowed because it is not a learning environment.

The discussion comes after teachers have said in the past that cell phones have been a hinderance to the learning process. In November, Superintendent Brian Yearwood also sent letters to parents asking them to tell students to put their phones away when they are in class.

Hickman High School Teacher and CMNEA president Noelle Gilzow said she's in favor of regulations for cell phone use because she's seen the use of them within classrooms increase since the pandemic.

"I really believe many students just cannot put them down right now," Gilzow said. "Sometimes, it's texting and things like that..that can be pretty quick but there are kids who are watching march madness, they're watching movies, and that's distracting not only to teachers but also to students."

The group also stated they're looking into using cell phone lockers for students who refuse to abide by the procedure. Jimmy Thomas attended Monday night's meeting and is a parent to two students who attend Rock Bridge High School and New Haven Elementary School.

Thomas said his son recently ran into trouble after he attempted to use his cellphone to call his father while at school. Thomas said his children only use their phones for security purposes, and wouldn't support a total ban of phones.

Thomas also said he's been told by his children that teachers also frequently use their cellphones in the classroom, and said he thinks that should be addressed. He said he'd also support cell phones having to be stored away in class, as long as the phones are kept nearby.

"I think there should be a spot for them but it should be secure because phones can end up know, I could walk up and steal your phone," Thomas said.

Gilzow said in her experience, working with students to get them to put their phones away in class has varied from case to case. However, she's had her fair share of issues.

"There have been some that have been more compliant than others," Gilzow said. "And, there have been some that have been so frustrating that I said just put your phone on my desk face down you need to be away from it for a minute."

The group said it plans to work with the district to ensure expectations across each school is clear.

Article Topic Follows: Columbia Public Schools

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Jazsmin Halliburton


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