Lee Schools board considers full-day phone bans

Reporter: Peter Fleischer
Published: Updated:

The biggest talking point in a Lee County School District safety presentation wasn’t about violence or drugs, it was about phones. Specifically, how students interact with them on school grounds.

Phones inside Lee Schools are supposed to be lifelines: calls to family if something goes wrong or in an emergency scenario. But board members have visited schools this semester and unanimously have concerns over how students are using them.

“I’ve watched bell changes, I’ve gone to cafeterias, and even in classrooms and seen students with earbuds in their ears,” District 6 rep Jada Langford-Fleming said. “I’ve watched them in hallways with their heads down not talking to each other.”

“We should go ahead and change that this year,” District 5 rep Armor Persons insisted. “For next year, have the phones in their backpacks on the off position from the first bell to the last bell.”

The topic came up during a board briefing about safety and rewriting the student code of conduct. No board members voiced strong opposition to banning them from the opening bell until school is let out but a few asked for input from other sources.

“I really think we need school leadership involved in the decision,” suggested District 7’s Cathleen O’Daniel Morgan. “Get families involved in the decision and students frankly, at the high school level.”

No decision has been made yet and there’s no guarantee changes will be made before the start of the 2024-25 school year.

“I will get with staff offline quickly to find out what we can do to bring data and insight so that you’re not just hearing a few voices,” interim superintendent Dr. Ken Savage assured.

The board doesn’t have forever to make their decision. If a new phone ban is going to be rewritten into the code of conduct, it has to happen by June.

The district is scheduled to revisit the topic later in May.

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