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CPS updates policy to encourage stricter rules for student cellphone use

Paul Hanaoka

Cincinnati Public Schools has updated its cellphone policy. The amended policy now allows schools in the district to create stricter rules around student cellphone use, such as requiring students to turn or lock away their cellphones during class.

The change comes days after Gov. Mike DeWine's office released the state's model policy to minimize the use of phones in schools. Board members say the policy amendment was also influenced by a pilot program launched at Hughes High School this school year.

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During the 2023-2024 school year, students at Hughes were required to put their phones in secured pouches during the day, preventing them from being easily accessed. The board says Hughes principal Jennifer Williams called the program a success. While board members say not every school has to adopt a policy that's as strict as Hughes, they encourage schools to look at Hughes as an example to develop rules that work for them.

"Similar to uniforms in some respects, buildings can come up with their own procedure and that is backed by board policy if they so choose," Board member Mike Moroski said.

Though requiring students to turn in their phones each day may seem harsh, board members say teachers strongly favor such rules and even students agree phones can be a significant distraction.

"At Shroder, some of the schools I visited, Withrow, [I] asked students just on a cursory level, 'Hey, what do you think about cellphones not being in schools?' Miraculously, the kids did not disagree," Board member Kareem Moffett said.

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Board President Eve Bolton encouraged the district to go a step further and look into creating a district-wide student cellphone ban in the future.

While schools will have to design individual phone policies, Interim Superintendent Shauna Murphy says they won't be limited by their ability to purchase phone pouches like the ones used at Hughes. Murphy says CPS leadership plans to purchase secured phone pouches this week to be used district-wide.

Zack Carreon is Education reporter for WVXU, covering local school districts and higher education in the Tri-State area.