Citing the need to reduce cellphone-related distractions in the classrooms, Sag Harbor School District administrators have announced a new policy at Pierson Middle and High School: Phones will be locked each morning into pouches that remain in students’ possession and will be unlocked at the end of the day by school staff using a special device.
The school is using technology developed by a company called Yondr, which started out by making phone pouches for use at concert venues and comedy clubs before expanding into schools. Yondr says the system is used by more than 1,000 schools, including 238 in New York City.
The new policy was first discussed during a school board meeting in mid-March as a way to return to the pre-Covid discussions of how to limit cellphone use in school.
“To minimize distractions and promote student engagement, Pierson will be a phone-free space during the 2023-24 school year,” school administrators said in an announcement. “We believe strongly that removing electronic devices in grades six through 12 will benefit our students and strengthen our school community.”
Yondr says 83 percent of schools using its technology saw an increase in student engagement, 74 percent saw improvement in student behavior, and 65 percent saw students performing better academically.
Pierson will also require students to lock up smart watches and wireless headphones in their Yondr pouches. “Students are required to bring their Yondr pouch to and from school each day and are responsible for their pouch at all times,” the district said.
For Pierson parents who need to reach their children in emergency situations, the school said they should call the main office at 631-725-5302, and “we will be happy to connect you with your child.”
The new policy is already becoming a hot topic among parents and students.
“I can’t imagine how distracting a phone could be in an educational setting. Anything that keeps kids focused is good,” said Patrick Milazzo, a parent of two seventh graders and one ninth grader at Pierson.
With Reporting by
This story has been updated since it was first published to remove a reference to a June 24 school board meeting, which is executive-session only for a board retreat.