No more taking phones from students: Granger High School considering new policy this fall

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WEST VALLEY CITY — Teachers at Utah's largest high school are done taking away cell phones from students. They're trying something new in the Fall, and if they're successful, other schools might do the same.

Principal Tyler Howe with Granger High School said many students walk into school, and check out.

"Sometimes we can be physically here and mentally not here," Howe said.

Using their phones, students compare themselves on social media, chat online, and are distracted by notifications.

Within 10 seconds of teachers reminding students to put their phones away, Howe said they're right back out again.

"Teachers came to me and said we've got to do something different," Howe said.

The Granite School District is considering a districtwide policy banning cellphone use in the classroom — something it hopes to approve in a council meeting next week.

"Let's get rid of that distraction and let's get back to learning," said Ben Horsley, spokesman for the Granite School District.

Previously, the Granite School District has allowed each of its 87 schools to determine a policy and enforcement. K-8 schools had a bell-to-bell ban, while some high schools allowed phones during lunch breaks and between classes.

The school-by-school policy has created different enforcement cultures. Some teachers take the policy seriously, while others are not enforcing it.

By creating a districtwide policy, Horsley said that enforcing cellphone bans will be more consistent.

"They would now be up to disciplinary action if they don't follow this," Horsley said.

A magic pouch

Yet, the policy allows each school to implement the cellphone ban in its own way.

At Granger High School, they're buying a magnetic cellphone pouch for each student.

During first hour, students will put their cellphones in the pouch and lock it. Teachers will have the magnetic key that will open the pouch at the end of the school day.

"The teachers are very on board," Howe said.

Most parents are on board too, though some have expressed concerns about emergencies and the need to contact their kids during the day.

"The good news is teachers and students will have quick access to unlock them if they needed to," Howe said.

If students forget to bring their pouch or refuse to use it, Howe said they have manilla envelopes students will use to turn their phones in with the office for the remainder of the school day.

"The magnetic pouch allows the student to maintain possession of their own phone," Howe said.

One parent, Braeden Jensen, said he'll watch and wait to see what happens before sending his daughter to Granger next year.

"I have hopes with a healthy amount of skepticism," Jensen said.

'Checking out' emotionally

Jensen taught high school for seven years and now works as a mental health professional at Accepted.

"I've just found with students that I've taught, with clients that I see, and my own kids, that loneliness is just such a huge thing," Jensen said.

Depression, anxiety, and panic attacks are all outcomes Jensen sees as a part of a greater issue.

"A cellphone gives a young person a reason not to feel," Jensen said.

When put in an uncomfortable or tough situation, Jensen said you can watch teenagers pull out their cellphones so they don't have to feel the pressure or stress.

"We have a lot of kids that aren't equipped to handle those emotions, so when they happen in a job, in college, in a friendship, or in a relationship, it turns into anxiety or depression," Jensen said.

Howe has seen students "checking out" in the hallways and lunchroom at Granger High School, and terms it "phone snubbing."

"There have been huge changes in mental health," Howe said.

He hopes the new phone pouches will help students "check in" again with each other and with learning.

The school board will read the second version of the Granite School District policy proposal on June 18.

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Erin Cox
Erin Cox is an Emmy sward-winning special projects reporter for KSL-TV.


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