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District bars cell phones

Spokane students can carry them, but policy limits use to lunch breaks

Spokane Public Schools joined a long list of districts nationwide Wednesday when the school board voted to ban cell-phone use in grades K-12 except during lunch breaks.

The policy came after parents, teachers and school administrators expressed concern last year about cell phones disrupting education.

“I think it will be well-received,” said Spokane Public Schools superintendent Nancy Stowell, citing widespread concern and similar policies in other districts.

Coeur d’Alene School District implemented a similar policy this past school year, and officials there have been pleased with the outcome. Rosie Astorquia, Coeur d’Alene’s director of secondary education, said problems have been minimal.

“Within a very short period of time, there was just an understanding,” Astorquia said.

In Coeur d’Alene, the policy applies to middle- and high-school students; Spokane’s superintendent decided to apply it to all grades.

Both district policies state that students can carry phones, but they must be turned off. Students can use them before and after school or during lunch.

In Coeur d’Alene, the policy requires students to leave the building during lunch to make a call.

The exceptions to using the phone during the school day are during emergencies or when an educator authorizes use for educational purposes, officials said.

If students disobey the policy, their phone is taken away. Only a parent or guardian can retrieve it, the policies state.

Coeur d’Alene administrators monitored the cell phone ban early in the year, and “they were surprised at how smooth it went,” Astorquia said.

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