BEATRICE – School districts across Nebraska are having to deal with policy regarding cell phones and other electronic devices in the classroom.
Beatrice is no different, and a revised policy this coming year seeks to make the rules standard among all staff members. High School Principal Jason Sutter says the updated policy would prohibit personal electronic devices during classes, though students would be able to have their cell phones or other devices with them during transition time between classes and during the lunch period.

"It's not just cellphones that are a distraction in class. It's smart watches that kids can actually text and receive texts and look up things on the internet. It's earbuds that are distracting....headphones."

First-time student violators of the policy would have their device confiscated by the teacher and returned to them at the end of the day, with loss of using the device for one full day. A second violation would add three days, and a third, five days. A spread sheet would be used to track violations.

Sutter worked with a committee made up of staff members and student representatives on the revised plan…and the school will provide information to freshmen, sophomores and juniors prior to the policy going into effect.  "The loss of the cellphone or the loss of the electronic device was a much more direct and impactful consequence than issuing detention time. It's kind of a weird thing right don't really care too much about detention. Even the student representatives we met with felt that was a better use of a consequence than detention time."

Some exceptions could be made when cell phones or electronic devices would be needed for instruction, or for special medical needs. Electronic device usage would be banned in restrooms.

"I'll be honest....they were just happy they were able to have their phones at lunch. They kept hearing rumors that we weren't going to allow phones all day long."

Some schools have purchased specialized bags students place devices in…..but the expense was too high. Sutter said instead, a less expensive bag or box would be used by instructors to contain devices until the class session is over.

"In essence what's going to happen is kids coming into class, they are not going to have access to their phones. The phones are either going to be put into a box the teacher has, or in one of those hang bags. Their watches that can connect to those phones cannot be utilized for that. Lot of our teachers have already told kids, take off your watches when we give tests."

Sutter says some of the electronic distractions originate from outside the school.  "Some of the worst violators of our cell phone policy are parents. They are constantly calling and texting their kids, during the day."

At the Beatrice Middle School current policy has students place their cell phones in their backpack and keep them in their locker.  Assistant High School Principal Phil Voigt says one teacher is already implementing the new measures at the high school and has reported success with it, so far.