Nebraska schools preparing to combat classroom cellphone usage for upcoming school year

As students enter their classes at LSW, their phones will go into a designated area determined by their teacher.
Lincoln Southwest High School.
Lincoln Southwest High School.(WOWT 6 News)
Published: Jul. 28, 2022 at 10:24 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - As schools across the nation are preparing for yet another unpredictable school year, there’s one thing that some are trying to have more control over: cell phone usage.

In a digital world, it can be hard for students to separate from their cell phones.

That’s why Lincoln Southwest High School is implementing a new school-wide policy: no phones in class.

“We want some consistency across our entire building,” says Principal John Matzen. “What we found is teachers who had a policy where students put their phones into a designated area when they entered the classroom were having higher levels of engagement and they just had more control over that classroom environment.”

As students enter their classes at LSW, their phones will go into a designated area determined by their teacher.

Matzen says before this year, teachers were given the ability to dictate phone policies in their classrooms. Some already had rules similar to the new policy.

“Some classrooms it looked exactly like what our new policy will be,” he says. “We had other ones where teachers would just say ‘keep them away,’ ‘don’t want to see them,’ and there were some that didn’t really police cell phones at all, kind of had the natural consequence that if they weren’t paying attention, it would impact their academic success.”

School districts in the Omaha metro like Omaha Public Schools, Westside, and Millard tell 6 News they have guidelines for cell phone usage, but no other district or school in the area has taken the step that LSW has.

“I have heard from parents and students and, mostly positive,” Matzen says when it comes to response following the announcement of the policy, which was made this week.

“Parents recognize that cell phones are a big distraction, they see that in their households, they receive texts from their kids in the middle of class and are wondering ‘are you paying attention?’ so I’ve had really great support from parents.”

Matzen also says many students already ‘police’ themselves when it comes to cell phones in class, and he’s confident in this upcoming school year.

When it comes to safety concerns, or in the event of an in-school emergency or lockdown, Matzen says he thinks this policy will actually help.

“We have seen students who are texting one another to arrange to meet at a door to skip out for lunch or do those other things, so sometimes having those additional pieces of information can allow them to do things beyond what we would want,” he says.

“The other piece is, we already have a lot of security measures,” Matzen adds. “One of those measures is every classroom door is locked, so the phones will be in the classroom, and if the door is locked, heaven forbid a situation arose where we needed to communicate a danger happening around us, students would be able to grab their cell phones, move out of sight and do so.”

Matzen also says that grace will always be granted to students if they communicate with their teachers. If students are facing an emergency situation at home, or need their phone to monitor any health issues, exceptions will always be made.

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