Decatur Public Schools Board Continues Debate on Proposed Cell Phone Ban
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Decatur Public Schools Board Continues Debate on Proposed Cell Phone Ban

DECATUR, Ill. (WCIA) — School is still more than a month away, but for some, the work is already starting. The Decatur Public Schools Board held a special meeting Tuesday evening, with the proposed ban on cellphones in schools at the top of the agenda.

The evening was the final meeting to hammer out the details of the ban. The most important point of discussion was when and where students should be allowed to use their phones during the school day.

The ban means all district students will not be allowed to use phones or other devices in classrooms or hallways during school hours.

“Pagers, smart watches, headphones, earbuds; we know that all of these devices are disruptive in the classroom,” said Principal Rochelle Clark.

Some aspects of the proposal were largely accepted by the board, such as where students should put their cellphones away during the school day.

“We want students to remain in the locker room, which is a designated area in the classroom, and in some cases, they may also be in the office,” Clark added.

Other aspects were also discussed, such as the possibility for secondary school students to use their phones during lunch.

“If someone wants to say don’t use your phone, they should say don’t use your phone all day long,” said another board member, Dr. Kevin Collins-Brown.

Some, like board member Mark Reynolds, support a complete ban during the school day for all grades.

“Opening Pandora’s box at lunch is opening a Pandora’s box that we could easily avoid by just saying, like in a K-8 classroom, that we’re not allowed to use cell phones and that’s it,” Reynolds said.

Others, like Clark, want to keep the current proposal and deal with the data later.

“So if I see an increase in (grades) 9-12, you know it’s not working,” Clark said. “So we have this data that shows we can easily go back and say we tried, we worked with you. We taught you, you know, we have expectations and it’s not working.”

Board Vice Chairman Jason Dion disagreed with this at all.

“I do not support this policy,” Dion said. “I have not been convinced that I support it.”

He suggested that the board reconsider the issue of a possible ban.

“I think it’s a disservice to the young people and the students of District 61 if we don’t teach them how to use their cell phones properly instead of, you know, using a big hammer,” Dion said. “Why don’t we teach them how to use their cell phones properly instead of banning them?”

With little time left to set a precedent before the start of the school year, the board will need to agree on a final proposal before voting.

“It’s important that I get as much information from you as I can tonight so that I can make changes and get them to you before the vote,” Clark said.

Debate over the use of the lunch hour will continue into next week. The council is expected to vote on Tuesday to finalize the proposal.