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Wilson High School Program to Enhance Learning, Improve Educational

Outcomes and Engage Students

Beginning with SY 2018-19, Woodrow Wilson High School will be modifying the way cell
phone use policies are enforced in school by ensuring that students arrive at class
ready to learn, without the distraction of personal digital devices, and to maximize time
for instruction and interpersonal relations. This is an opportunity for students to reclaim
their education, continue to develop important social and emotional skills, and provide
currently-missed opportunities for students to join or start new clubs, friendships, and
relationships school-wide. This may be an adjustment for some students but we look
forward to working with parents as the school implements another key initiative to
improve learning and student success.

What is happening?
Beginning on the first day of school, August 20, 2018, students will place their cell
phones in a special bag upon entry into their Science and Math classes. The bag is
magnetically sealed and can only be opened with a special disc (similar to anti-theft
tags at department stores). ​Students will keep their cell phone on their desks ​in their
possession ​throughout the class period.​ Upon exiting the classroom, students will
unlock their phones, and deposit the cellphone bag in a bin. For students who attended
Deal Middle School, the concept of having their phone in the building but unavailable for
use should be familiar, as students were required to keep their phones in their locker
during the school day.

Why is this approach needed?


There are a number of reasons school staff and administrators have decided to change
the method for enforcing the school’s cell phone use policy; most importantly, to
enhance the student educational experience.

1. Teachers are spending an ever-increasing amount of instructional time disciplining


students for using cell phones during class time. This takes away from the students’
learning and the instructional time for all students in the class. Students who are
distracted by their personal device are missing out on critical educational
opportunities, in addition to classroom interaction with their peers. This is an issue
across all students in the building, high-achieving students and students with room
for improvement.

2. Social interaction among students and staff can be enhanced. At any given time in
the lunchroom, for instance, students stare at their phones, scrolling social media or
playing online games, rather than talking to their peers. When transitioning between
classes, students are often texting and using social media. A student sitting in the
back of a classroom often may be on their phone rather than fully participating in a
discussion or seminar. These are all missed opportunities for building friendships,
learning content, and interacting with peers. With cell phones kept securely away,
students will have new opportunities to work on critical social and interactional skills
that are needed for success.

3. We hope to encourage students to take full advantage of all that the Wilson
community has to offer. Wilson has a diverse offering of lunch time clubs and extra
help during STEP (the lunch period). Instead of taking advantage of these offerings,
a large portion of students rush to lunch to get on their phone. Students are missing
out on opportunities to participate in activities with their peers and are instead
isolating themselves on their phones.

4. Cell phone discipline conversations often turn into disputes between teachers and
students, leading to additional disciplinary actions and additional infractions. This
procedure is designed to reduce disciplinary problems. Further, cell phones are
often involved in incidents of bullying, fighting or other poor student choices.
Changing school behavior around cell phones will refocus students on their purpose
for entering the building - which is to learn and receive an exceptional education.

5. Eliminating the ability of students to use their phones during the day will reduce
unwanted activities done using cell phones. Students have been caught using their
phones to cheat on exams and homework. In the math setting, students may use a
problem solving app to get answers rather than doing the work themselves. Students
may text answers to a quiz to students who have the quiz later in the day. By having
students store their cell phones in a secure bag during the class periods, these
activities will be severely curtailed.

Ultimately, we aim to improve educational outcomes. A study by the London School of


Economics found that “following a ban on phone use, the schools' test scores improved
by 6.4%. The impact on underachieving students was much more significant -- their
average test scores rose by 14%.”
Frequently Asked Questions

What if I want to reach my student during the school day?

As when children were in lower grades without phones on their person during the school
day, parents can contact the school and ask that a message be given to the student. In
the case of a family emergency, a staff person can find the student in class. For other
matters, parents can leave messages in the main office or attendance office for
students to retrieve. This is similar to the system in use at Alice Deal Middle School.
When parents help their kids plan their days without text messages, they help them to
develop valuable executive-functioning skills.

What if there is an emergency that requires school lock down or evacuation?

As part of the school emergency response plan, each administrator will evacuate the
building with their assigned unlocking base and report to their assigned location. This
means that there will be bases at every evacuation site. As an additional safety
measure, several bases will be stored at a secure off site location in the event of a
prolonged or major event where administrators may not have time to get their bases
before evacuating the building. Note, this is again similar to policies for children coming
from schools without cell phone access. In an evacuation students would not proceed to
their lockers to get their phones, but would leave the building promptly.

In the event of a lockdown, students should be attuned to following emergency


responder and staff directions, not using cell phones. Once the incident is safely ended,
students will be able to unlock phones to reach family.

In many true catastrophic emergency situations, cell service is disrupted due to the
volume use, making phones unusable.

There is sufficient evidence supporting school based policies restricting cell phone use,
as they can ultimately distract students from what they need to be doing in a true
emergency situation. Please see the following articles for more information around cell
phones and school security.

http://www.schoolsecurity.org/trends/cell-phones-and-text-messaging-in-schools/

https://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2018/02/17/586534079/should-the-parkland-shooting-c
hange-how-we-think-about-phones-schools-and-safety
Will my student’s phone be safe? What if my child’s phone gets lost or stolen?

Students will retain possession of their phone throughout the school day.​ The current
Wilson policy around personal technology remains in effect - students who choose to
bring technology into the building assume 100% responsibility for those items.

What if my student has after school club or activities. Will they be allowed to use
their phones after the end of the normal school day?

Students will be able to unlock their phones when leaving class and will have access to
their phones during passing times, lunch, when off campus and after school.

What if my son/daughter has a doctor’s appointment and needs to leave school


early?
Students currently are not permitted to use their phones in most classes, so there
should be little change to how your child leaves for an early dismissal. Parents should
come to or call the main office/attendance office; the attendance office will contact the
child in class for dismissal. Students who are being dismissed without a parent should
submit their dismissal note within ​reasonable ​time to the attendance office via this ​LINK​,
ideally a day in advance. Students will be able to pick up a dismissal slip the day of
their absence or dismissal in the attendance office that will permit them to leave early
from class.

What constitutes an emergency? When should I call the school to get my


son/daughter a message?
School personnel and administrators take student safety very seriously, and respond to
parents as soon as is practical in school safety situations. Parents will be given explicit
instructions during emergencies and will be notified if students need to be picked up
from school. In the case of a true emergency, parents will be notified via email and
telephone, which are found in our Learning Management System, Aspen. ​Keeping your
information current and up-to-date in Aspen is the best way to ensure that the school
can contact you in the case of an emergency. ​Please update email addresses and
phone numbers in Aspen by contacting the school registrar (​Tasha.Maritano@dc.gov​).

When will students put their phones in the bags?


For the first advisory, students will lock their phones in their Math and Science classes
immediately upon entering class. Students who enter the class after the bell will be
quickly and quietly provided a bag for their phone. Students will unlock the bag before
leaving the class.

Each advisory, we will increase the number of classes and the amount of time that
students are learning in a cell phone-free environment.

How will students open the bags?


Students will unlock their bags in their classes before leaving to the next class.

How Yondr Works: ​ ​https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I2A38Nxz8sc

What happens if a student destroys the Yondr bag?

Per DCPS Chapter 25, vandalism is a Tier 4 offense, “Acts of vandalism, destruction of
property, or graffiti (tagging).” As such, destroying a Yondr bag may result in:
● Off-site short-term suspension
● Off-site medium-term suspension
● Off-site long-term suspension

As with other school property, like lockers and textbooks, students will be expected to
pay for the cost of the Yondr bag if it is damaged or destroyed while in a students’
possion:
● First offense - $25
● Second offense - $35
● Third offense - $45

What if my student does not comply?

Currently, DCMR Chapter 25 reads:


Tier II behaviors are those behaviors not specifically enumerated in any other tier
in this chapter that cause disruption to the academic environment, involve
damage to school property, or may cause minor harm to self or others. Tier II
behaviors result in school-based and administrative disciplinary responses. (a)
The following behaviors shall be considered Tier II behaviors:
● Unauthorized use of portable electronic devices during school hours (e.g. mp3
players, cell phones);
Disciplinary responses for Tier II behaviors shall include:
(1) Verbal redirection or reprimand;
(2) Teacher/student or administrator/student conference;
(3) Parental contact in writing or by phone;
(4) Administrator/parent conference;
(5) Temporary Removal of Student from Classroom;
(6) In-School Disciplinary Action;
(7) Behavior contract;
(8) Other school-based consequences as approved by a person
designated by the Chancellor; and
(9) In the case of non-compliance with an approved dress code or
uniform policy, disciplinary actions described in section B2408.16
of this title.

Per DCMR Chapter 25, failure to comply/defiance may be a Tier 1, Tier 2 or Tier 3
offense, based on the details of the noncompliance. (See below for
As such, the dean of students may:
● Contact the parent
● Place the student in ISS (In-school suspension)
● Off-site short-term suspension
● Other school-based consequences as approved by the dean/principal

What is the “new” policy*?


This is not a “new policy.” There has always been a cell phone policy in effect at Wilson
High School, however, it was inconsistently enforced across classrooms. The Yondr cell
phone bags are being used to consistently enforce expectations around healthy and
reasonable cell phone use. (See DCMR above)

*Electronic Device Policy 2018-19


Electronic devices may not be used in the classroom unless the teacher has indicated
that the phones will be used for instructional reasons, and they post a sign on the door
stating that phones are being used for that purpose. Students who violate the rule and
have their phone out or charging during class must give the electronic device to the
teacher (or administrator or staff member) upon request. The teacher will follow the
consequences listed below.
If a student has an electronic device in class, the consequences are as follows:
• First time: The teacher will place the phone in a Yondr bag and contact the parent to
report that the student had an electronic device out during class.
• Second time: The teacher will give the phone to a dean, and the student’s
parent/guardian must retrieve it at the school.
• Third time: The teacher will give the electronic device to the administration, who may
return the phone after a length of time, not to exceed one month.
If a student refuses to give the electronic device to the teacher, then the consequences
for “non-compliance to a directive” are as follows:
• The teacher will contact a dean, who will confiscate the electronic device from the
student.
• The teacher will follow up with a written referral citing the student’s refusal to comply.
• For the first offense for non-compliance: the dean will assign the student one day of
In-School Suspension, and a parent/guardian must retrieve the electronic device from
the dean.
• For the second offense for non-compliance: one day of Out-of-School Suspension,
and a parent/guardian must retrieve the electronic device from the dean.
• For the third offense for non-compliance: three days of Out-of-School Suspension, and
a parent/guardian must retrieve the electronic device from the dean.
• The dean will send the teacher a follow-up message about the consequences that
were assigned to the student within 48 hours.
Damaging or destroying a Yondr bag will result in escalating fees:
1st offense: $25.00
2nd offense: $35.00
3rd offense: $45.00

What happens if my child does not bag his/her phone and it gets taken by an
administrator or a teacher?
If a phone is taken by a dean, students will be able to retrieve their phone at the end of
the school day. For repeat offenders, the Dean may determine that a phone must be
picked up by a parent/guardian. Appropriate disciplinary action will be taken (see
above).

Why are you taking the phones away from students? My child is a good student
and feels like this is punishment.

We are excited about the positive impact going “phone-free” will have on our school
community and are confident that students will be able to focus on what is most
important - their social, emotional and academic success. While any transition of this
nature can be difficult, we look forward to the support of the entire community to
transform our school culture.

We believe this is an opportunity to help students grow and participate more fully in the
Wilson community. Even for a student with a 4.0 GPA, time spent on a phone during
class or lunch is a missed opportunity for new friend connections, joining a club, or
conversing face to face with peers. ​When kids who are struggling with being social are
allowed to retreat into their device between classes, they deprive themselves and other
of the opportunity to engage meaningfully with their classmates and teachers.

https://www.nbcconnecticut.com/news/local/Seymour-High-School-Reports-Positive-Re
sults-After-Cell-Phone-Ban-472029253.html

http://turnto10.com/news/local/massachusetts-high-school-bans-cell-phones-from-classr
ooms

http://money.cnn.com/2015/05/18/technology/smartphones-schools-ban/index.html

Some people believe that students should just control their impulses to check
their phones during the school day, why do we have to take it away from them?

We know that the brain’s center for impulse control, the frontal lobe, is not fully
developed in middle or high school-aged children. When we say “kids just need to learn
how to handle phone use in places like classrooms,” we are setting many kids up for
failure. We intend to teach them responsible cell phone use by giving them self-control
challenges in which they can succeed.

But my child will feel less stress if they can check on their texts and social feeds!
Studies​ have shown that middle schoolers are at a high risk of depression, in part due
to access to smartphones, texts, and ​social media​, which magnifies the issues of
inclusion and acceptance, issues most middle schoolers grapple with during the day.
Face-to-face time with friends and classmates counteracts the isolating, depressive
feelings that are exacerbated when looking at a screen. See ​more studies​ on the social
emotional effects of cell phones on.

Why is Wilson pursuing this approach? Other DCPS high schools do not use this
approach?

Wilson is the largest comprehensive high school in DCPS, presenting some additional
challenges in enforcing a cell phone policy. We considered a number of different
approaches (some of which are outlined below) and ultimately felt that the use of Yondr
bags was best suited to address the unique challenges presented by a school of this
size and this approach is tailored to our specific and exceptional needs.
Students at Ron Brown High School lock their phones in a special locker each day upon
entry. Wilson does not have space in the building for 2000 individual cell phone lockers.
Benjamin Banneker High School also uses the cell phone lockers in a similar fashion as
Ron Brown - Banneker students can pay to rent the locker at a nearby convenience
store - they are not allowed to bring their phone into the building. Dunbar High School
utilizes rolling carts,where phones are put in to plastic sleeves at the start of the day and
locked and stored throughout the day. At the end of the school days, students go to an
assigned location to retrieve their phone on their way out of the building.

Some schools require students to place their phones in a bin at arrival and retrieve them
at the end of the day; the logistics and liability of Wilson staff being responsible for
collecting 2000 phones makes this approach unrealistic.

In many schools, teachers ask students to bag or put away phones each time they enter
a classroom. While this approach takes time at the beginning of each class that could
otherwise be devoted to instruction and places an additional burden on the teacher, the
cost benefit analysis of the time spent is well worth it to have students who are
engaged, alert and responsive throughout the class period.

What about earbuds and Apple watches or iPads?


All of these fall under the electronic device policy. We will not require students to put
earphones or ipads in a yondr bag, however they WILL be required to put apple
watches in the yondr bag with their cell phone upon entering the classroom. Students
could, in theory, play music through earbuds or get texts etc via an Apple watch. The
Wilson expectation regarding technology remains in place and discipline for students
caught using these forms of technology will follow the school discipline policy as laid out
in the FAQs.

Shouldn’t we just enforce the policy as it is right now?

Unfortunately, teachers who work to enforce the current policy with students are doing
so at the expense of instructional time in the classroom. Every 3 minute discussion with
a cell phone-using student or group of students becomes 3 minutes where instruction is
lost. By removing continuous enforcement throughout the class period, the dynamic in
the class will be shifted to focusing on learning, not constant enforcement.
Furthermore, as mentioned, some students use their cell phones to cheat on tests or
shortcut homework, rather than mastering the material on their own.
What if my child’s teacher needs students to use their phones in class for an
assignment?

Teachers who need students to use phones for class work will have access to an
unlocking base. Students will unlock their phones for class work and then will be
required to re-lock their phones until the bell rings.

We have learned that computer use in class can be less distracting than phone use
since apps and notifications on the phone are constantly distracting. Also,
non-sanctioned screen time on phones is much easier to hide in class than doing so on
a computer. Studies show that kids’ academic performance actually goes down with the
mere presence of a cell phone in class.

What is the current policy on cell phone use?

Electronic devices may not be used in the classroom unless the teacher has indicated
that the phones will be used for instructional reasons and he/she posts a sign on the
door stating that phones are being used for that purpose.
Students who violate the rule and have their phone out or charging during class must
give the electronic device to the teacher/administrator or staff member upon request.
The teacher will follow the consequences listed below. The school is not responsible for
lost or stolen electronic devices.

If a student complies and gives the electronic device to the teacher upon request the
consequences are as follows:
• The first time​: the teacher will return the electronic device at the end of the class
period to the student, and may choose to contact the parent to report that the student
had an electronic device out during class.
• The second time​: the teacher must contact the parent to report that the student
had an electronic device out in class for the second time. The teacher will return the
device to the student at the end of the day.
• The third time​: the teacher will give the electronic device to the dean of that
student, write a referral, and call the parent. The dean will contact the student’s parent
to make arrangements for the parent to pick up the device from school. The parent must
come in person to pick up the electronic device.

If a student refuses to give the electronic device to the teacher then consequences for
“non-compliance to a directive” (Chapter 25) are as follows:
• The teacher will contact a dean of students who will confiscate the electronic
device from the student.
• The teacher will follow up with a written referral citing the student’s refusal to
comply (Tier 3.27).
• For the ​first offense ​for non-compliance, the dean will assign the student one
day of In School Suspension and a parent must retrieve the electronic device from the
dean.
• For the ​second offense​ for non-compliance--one day of Out of School
Suspension and a parent must retrieve the electronic device from the dean.
• For the ​third offense​ for non-compliance -- three days of Out of School
Suspension and a parent must retrieve the electronic device from the dean.
• The Dean of Students will send the teacher a follow-up message about the
consequences that were assigned to the students within 48 hours.

What is the consequence for multiple phones?

Multiple phones is considered a Tier III offense under DCMR Chapter 25 (Lying to or
giving misleading information to school staff). As such, the consequences are as
follows:

Disciplinary responses for Tier III behaviors shall include:

(1) Verbal redirection/reprimand;


(2) Teacher/student conference or administrator/student conference;
(3) Parental contact (written or by phone); (
4) Parent conference;
(5) Temporary Removal of Student from Classroom;
(6) Behavior contract;
(7) In-School Disciplinary Action;
(8) Grade reduction for Academic Dishonesty;
(9) On-site Short-Term Suspension with provision of appropriate intervention services;
(10) Off-site Short-Term Suspension, except in response to unexcused tardiness or
absence;
(11) Off-site Medium-Term Suspension, except in response to unexcused tardiness or
absence.

How much will this cost families?


Woodrow Wilson High School is partnering with Yondr to help our school go
“phone-free.” No additional costs will passed down to students and families.