Worried about impacts on learning, Olathe schools consider prohibiting cell phones in class

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Olathe Public Schools is considering cracking down on student cell phone use in classrooms and schools starting in the fall.

The school board on Thursday is set to consider a new board policy regarding student use of personal electronic devices — like cell phones, smart watches, earbuds and headphones — during school hours.

This is somewhat similar to other Johnson County school districts, whose student handbooks prohibit the use of cell phones and other personal electronic devices during instructional hours.

No action is anticipated to be taken on Thursday and it is unclear when the policy, if approved, might go into effect, district officials say.

What does the policy propose?

The policy would implement the following, according to district documents:

  • Students who have or use personal electronic devices, such as cell phones, must do so in accordance with the district’s behavior code, code of student conduct and the “student acceptable use of technologies policy.”
  • Students would be prohibited from having or using “personal electronic devices during instructional activities” unless the teacher or administration allows it.
  • Students would also be prohibited from having or using such devices during non-instructional activities while at school, including passing periods and lunch, unless school administrators allow it.
  • Students who violate the “policy will receive age appropriate discipline,” and potentially have their personal electronic device privileges revoked.
Olathe school workers are working to unionize
Members of the Olathe school district’s hourly workforce are pushing to unionize. Above, the Olathe Public Schools Education Center is near 141st and Black Bob Road. Photo credit Kaylie McLaughlin.

Other districts address electronics in handbooks

  • The Shawnee Mission School District handles the use of cell phones or personal electronic devices in the student handbook, and the Unified School District 232 in De Soto addresses electronics in school handbooks.
  • Shawnee Mission prohibits the use of cell phones and other electronic devices “unless explicitly directed by school staff” for all schools, and elementary and middle schools require students to have devices turned off and put away during school hours.
  • Alvie Cater, USD 232’s assistant superintendent, told the Post that high schoolers can have personal electronics and are allowed to use them during passing periods or lunch, but cannot have them visible during class.
  • Cater said middle schoolers must keep electronics in their lockers during the school day, and elementary schoolers are not allowed to have cell phones at school.

No discussion is planned regarding this policy

  • Erin Schulte, assistant director of communications, told the Post via email that there is no planned discussion for this agenda item on June 6, but the board may still discuss it.
  • Schulte said the new policy was developed in response to staff and parent feedback about “distractions and learning loss” caused by such devices.
  • The board of education would decide when the policy would go into effect, Schulte said.

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About the author

Juliana Garcia
Juliana Garcia

👋 Hi! I’m Juliana Garcia, and I cover Prairie Village and northeast Johnson County for the Johnson County Post.

I grew up in Roeland Park and graduated from Shawnee Mission North before going on to the University of Kansas, where I wrote for the University Daily Kansan and earned my bachelor’s degree in  journalism. Prior to joining the Post in 2019, I worked as an intern at the Kansas City Business Journal.