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Sunday, October 2, 2022
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Texas Schools Crack Down on Smartphones

Education

Yondr's case entraps a smartphone so individuals can't compulsively text, check apps or snap photos. | Image by Yondr

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Students at a Central Texas school district will be required to keep their phones in a magnetically sealed pouch during the school day, according to a letter sent to parents by school officials.

The Thorndale Independent School District, located northeast of Austin and responsible for the education of roughly 600 students districtwide, will provide middle and high school students with YONDR cases to store their electronic devices this upcoming academic year. Students will have to lock up smartphones, earbuds, and smartwatches inside the pouches.

In a recent letter written by Thorndale ISD Superintendent Adam Ivy, high school principal Jennifer Parnham, and middle school principal Scott Frei, the administrators claimed that implementing the program would make cyberbullying and other scenarios involving internet safety “almost … non-existent.”

The YONDR program “uses a patented system to create phone-free spaces for artists, educators, organizations, and individuals,” according to the company’s official website.

Students will have to put their phones in a YONDR pouch upon arrival on campus. The pouch would then be magnetically sealed. At the end of the school day, students have to touch their pouch to an unlocking base at the school to unseal the pouch and access their smart-tech belongings.

The administrators stated in their letter to parents that district employees visited another ISD to observe how it utilized YONDR. They met with instructors who told them distractions were down, engagement was up, and problems with cyberbullying and cyber safety became “almost … non-existent.”

Students who violate the new YONDR policy would be subject to $15 penalties for each infraction and a certain number of suspension days, per the school officials’ letter.

Thorndale ISD is not the only Texas school district to experiment with charging students and, by extension, parents to get their property back. Several districts, including Abilene ISD, Klein ISD, and Hays Consolidated ISD, have instituted such policies to reduce the disruption to learning environments caused by smart-device usage.

“We have spent a lot of time discussing this and trying to play devil’s advocate to look for holes in the system,” the administrators wrote. “After much thought, prayer and discussion, we believe that this will absolutely be in the best interest of our students’ education, health and safety, which is the litmus test we use for all such decisions.”

The Dallas Express reached out to Superintendent Ivy, but he did not respond to a request for comment.

Students of Thorndale ISD return to class on August 17.

Thorndale ISD boasts an unbelievably high graduation rate for Texas. A four-year longitudinal study on the class of 2020 indicated that 100% of district students graduated high school on time. The district beat the statewide rate for the class of 2020, which sat at 90.3%, and dwarfed Dallas ISD’s unimpressive 82.8% graduation rate.

The Dallas Express reached out to several Dallas ISD Trustees regarding the district’s poor showing and received no response.

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