Local high school principals say proposed cell phone bill is on par with current policies

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – At the beginning of February, Tennessee Representative Rebecca Alexander (District 7) introduced bill HB2758, which would prohibit cell phone use by students during class in public schools. The bill reads:

“As introduced, requires Local Education Agencies and public charter schools to prohibit students from displaying, using, or accessing an electronic device during instructional time unless the electronic device is authorized, or provided to the student, by the LEA or public charter school for instructional purposes”

The bill would only prohibit students from using electronic devices during class/instructional time. This practice is already being implemented in some Northeast Tennessee schools, but if passed, the proposed bill would formally mandate this rule for all public schools in the state.

“In Sullivan County, the cell phone policy is that during instructional time, the phones are to be turned off,” said Andy Hare, principal at Sullivan East High School.

“We have different strategies that we use here,” said Dr. Josh Carter, principal at Science Hill High School. “Some teachers do use the shoe holder to hold cell phones. Others just have students put them away.”

According to the cell phone policy at Science Hill, teachers can collect cell phones during any class period. Teachers can also choose to allow the use of cell phones during class for instructional purposes. The Sullivan East HS handbook has a similar policy.

Although the bill would require public school systems to restrict the use of cell phones during instructional periods, it would be up to local school leaders to determine how to put those rules into place and enforce them.

Principal Hare said he lets his teachers determine the best practices for their classroom.

“Many of our classes go ahead and they put them in what used to be calculator caddies,” said Hare. “Some have charging stations that they put them all on so that they’ll be charged.”

Rep. Alexander told News Channel 11 that the bill would have precautions in place for emergencies, something Carter and Hare both have established in their schools.

“If they have an emergency or there’s a parent needs to get in touch with them, they can always call the school,” said Carter.

“[The teachers] work with kids on a student-by-student basis who may need their phone because a lot of kids use their cell phone for other things like tracking blood sugar,” said Hare.

The bill is being discussed in the House’s K-12 subcommittee.

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