Lesson learned? More schools finally banning phones in class

From outside the classroom, the issue appears as elementary as ABC. But it’s taken until now for school districts to finally reach the obvious conclusion that allowing students to have cell phones in class inevitably leads to distraction, disruption and less learning.

After years of leaving teachers to compete with the devices for many students’ attention, school districts around the state are cracking down at the start of the new academic year. That includes Mankato public schools, where the Free Press indicates high school students will only be allowed to use their phones in the hallways and at lunch. Younger students cannot pull out their phones at all during the school day.

The Mankato Area Public School board unanimously voted Tuesday to implement a policy that bans the use of cellphones during instructional time.

The change comes after the school district heard feedback from staff, Supt. Paul Peterson said.

“In listening to teachers and administrators and acknowledging the fact that a mobile device, while it can be very handy and useful, in the academic setting, the word that has just been used for quite sometime now is just distracting,” he said.

The southern Minnesota district made the move after a drumbeat of complaints from instructors over a longstanding problem that was only getting worse. The impact on teachers and their ability to maintain control finally got through to school board members at a meeting just prior to the start of fall classes.

Board members, such as Kari Pratt, a former teacher, voiced their support for the policy Monday.

“Thank you for listening to teachers and including teachers in on the policy, getting their feedback throughout. As a teacher who has experienced burnout from cellphones, they are a huge distractor in the classroom and it is often times a power struggle,” she said.

It may be long overdue, but in the short term Mankato educators expect the crackdown to result in a rocky transition as students lose what many take for granted.

“There’s going to be some heavy lifting at the leadership level of our schools, our administrators and our teachers to enforce it, but a lot of it comes with behavior changing,” Lustig said during Monday’s meeting.

Board member Patrick Baker also supported the policy.

“As the husband of a high school teacher, it is becoming a massive problem,” Baker said. “The policy is unfortunate, but it’s needed.”

Students will be able to use their phones in an emergency. But those who find it difficult to break their dependence on the device will receive a warning with additional violations leading to calling a parent to take the phone off the premises.