Schools find solution to cell phone distraction in classes

WARRENSVILLE HEIGHTS, Ohio — For so many of us, our devices can be a huge distraction.

And for students who are supposed to be focused on learning in class — well, the appeal is often overwhelming, like at T-Squared Honors Academy in Warrensville Heights.

Coming back from the COVID-19 pandemic last year proved to be challenging, forcing school leaders to drill down and analyze their discipline data.

“It was really high and we had to come up with some type of solutions. We said, let’s look for the causes — what’s causing these problems and what are things we can actually change,” explained Jason Petz, Dean of Students.

Turns out the bulk of problems — 44% to be exact — were linked either directly or indirectly to cell phones.

Students were scrolling social media, playing games and late to class because they were making TikToks in the halls.

So the solution they came up with is to use pouches called Yondr to lock up students’ cell phones from the moment they walk into school to the time they are dismissed at the end of the day.

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Bridgette Pacholka

You may have seen the Yondr pouches used at concerts and comedy shows for years now.

Teachers have loved the pouches, and it’s no surprise there was pushback from students there, at first.

“I come, put my phone in the pouch every day and understand how it helps because it has helped the whole school. Less altercations, less distractions,” said Shahid Wheeler, a senior at T-Squared.

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Bridgette Pacholka

Sophomore Jaydah Anderson agreed, adding, “I see helping me, my grades are better, gets me more work done.”

Students can personalize their pouches and keep them with them at all times.

T-Squared was initially worried about enrollment dropping with the new policy since they’re a charter school, but have actually found more parents sending their kids because of it.

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Bridgette Pacholka

“They’re collaboratively working in groups, whereas last year, maybe one kid would do the work and the rest would play on their phone,” Petz said.

Over at Mary Church Terrell, a Pre-K through 8th grade Cleveland public school, this is year two with Yondr pouches.

“It’s taken a layer of distraction and stress for some kids away so it’s great to see,” said principal Angie Boie.

Boie said transitioning to the pouches was surprisingly smooth for students, and most of all, it’s been refreshing to see kids just being kids again — at lunch, in the halls, at recess.

“Interacting, having fun, talking,” she said. “At recess, they’re playing football, basketball and just being kids.”

Yondr is used in 25 schools across Ohio — six of those in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, and 1,200 schools across the country.

In a survey of 900 schools nationwide, 74% reported an improvement in student behavior, with a 65% improvement in academic performance.

In case of emergency, educators we spoke with said teachers have phones readily accessible in their classrooms and students are able to go to the front office to contact their parents whenever they need.

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