HEMET – Asking students to give up their cell phones is not a pleasant experience. Adults anticipate the negotiating, whines and eye rolls as they utter those dreaded words. However, educators are not receiving these responses at two schools in Hemet Unified School District, as students are willingly giving up their phones during class to staff.
Tahquitz High School decided to implement a schoolwide no cellphone policy during class, after a successful pilot from the English department in 2018-2019. Now at the beginning of each class period, students are asked to park their cell phones in individual pockets at the front of the room. These cellphone pockets are referred to as “parking lots.”
The new policy was met with enthusiasm by staff, but the real indicator was how students would react. As expected the first few days of school students tried different ways to negotiate with staff to keep their phones; however, as students were asked to “park” their phones at the beginning of each class, students became more compliant. Soon these schoolwide expectations became a routine for students. Teachers found that students were fully engaged in their lessons, collaborating with other students on their work and retaining the information being taught.
“At first I thought this was a bad idea,” senior Mario Monje said. “I’ve found that I’m more focused in class and paying more attention to what the teacher says.”
He said that it helps that the cellphone policy is schoolwide. He said doesn’t feel like he is missing out on a text or something because his friends aren’t able to have their phones either.
“I feel like I’m more aware of when I’m using my phone,” senior Guadalupe Carrasco said.
She said even though the policy allows students to have their phones out during passing periods and lunch, she keeps hers in her bag.
“It’s been a good adjustment,” Carrasco said.
To get students on board with the policy, staff created incentives as students get use to the change. Some staff members charge students’ phones as they are “parked;” some provide participation points and other rewards.
“Since every staff member is required to enforce the policy, it’s made it easier,” math teacher Jill Sugita said. “It’s part of the culture now. Kids know they can’t access their phones during class so they don’t even bother asking for it anymore.”
Students have even reported that they forgot about their phone and left it “parked” in one of their classes.
Acacia Middle School also implemented a no cellphone policy this school year. Its policy does not require students to give staff their cell phones, however, but that cell phones must be kept in the student’s bags all day, including passing periods and lunch.
Similar to what Tahquitz staff experienced, Acacia administration said that staff, students and parents have all been supportive of the new policy. When staff sees a phone, they inform students to put it away and students do; however, these interactions are becoming less frequent.
Some students, especially seniors, have mentioned that the transition has been harder for some. They said that as a senior they’ve had their phones accessible since middle school so it has taken them a little longer to adjust.
Submitted by Hemet Unified School District.