Some Texas school districts enact, consider ban on student cell phones

Several school districts in Texas have enacted or are considering some type of ban on students having cell phones during the school day.

There has been some pushback, including a student protest walkout earlier this year at a Houston-area high school that had enacted a policy requiring students to surrender their phones upon arrival and retrieve them at dismissal.

Texas State Rep. Ellen Troxclair (R-Boerne) recently published an op-ed on the issue, indicating that this is a topic for state lawmakers to consider when they return to Austin in January.

Troxclair spoke with FOX 7 Austin's Rudy Koski about this issue and what she thinks lawmakers can actually offer Texas school boards.

ELLEN TROXCLAIR: Well, we all know that cell phones have turned our brains into mush. It reminded me of, you know, this is your brain on…this is your brain…this is your brain on drugs. The ad campaign that we all recognize from back in the day. And yet…so we found ourselves in a situation where we have given children with developing brains an endless internet porn portal where they are exposed to inappropriate material, videos. And then we've let them run free with it during school time. I put out a rallying call for us to unite and to support each other in getting cell phones out of reach of students while they're in class. You can do that through yonder pouches, or through something as simple as hanging a shoe rack over a door that the students can slip their phones in during class. 

RUDY KOSKI: What role do you think the state should have in helping school districts do this, or is there a role for the state?

ELLEN TROXCLAIR: I want to make sure that the state is doing what we can to incentivize all districts to adopt this kind of policy, whether that is passing some kind of statewide bill, but allowing them to put in place the right enforcement or the right mechanism for which to do it, and maybe even adding some extra funding for school districts who do decide to adopt it. But basically, we cannot wait any longer to give our kids the freedom to learn and to get them away from these addictive devices that are truly destroying their brains and exacerbating our mental health crisis.

RUDY KOSKI: Kids have laptops. Their laptops are connected to the web. They're connected to their emails. So how do we justify that? You keep your laptop, but you got to get rid of your cell phone. Or is this apples and oranges?

ELLEN TROXCLAIR: Oh, you know, there's a big difference between your laptop and your cell phone. And I think anybody watching that knows the difference between constantly having the notification dings and the Facebook likes and the dopamine hit that doesn't really happen when you're on your computer. And of course, most of the laptops at our school have a geofence so that they only have access to appropriate educational information.

RUDY KOSKI: If the state gets involved, do you want to see this type of rule for charter schools and also private schools?

ELLEN TROXCLAIR: You know, I think you'll be surprised that most private schools and even charter schools already have very strict enforcement of phone-free classrooms. So, they're really kind of ahead of the curve on this. It's the public schools that we haven't quite gotten there yet. In Richardson ISD, for example, 100% of teachers said that their pilot program that banned phones in classrooms increased educational and instructional time. So I'm just going to continue to use the bully pulpit between now and the start of the legislative session to encourage these districts to adopt their individual policies. And if there is a role for the state come January to help incentivize and support them, I'll be ready and willing to do that.