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The new cellphone policy would take into effect during the 2024-2025 school year.

Midtown High School is implementing a new policy for the 2024-25 school year that will make the campus free of personal electronic devices (PEDs) from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The decision comes after the school’s teaching staff reported that policing cell phone use and competing with cell phones for student attention was their biggest challenge in the classroom.

The new policy defines PEDs as “a privately-owned device that is used for audio, video, text communication or any other type of computer-like instrument,” including personal computers, smartphones, smartwatches, tablets, and earbuds/headphones. The move aligns with the Atlanta Public Schools (APS) Student Handbook, which states that students should only use PEDs during the day with the permission of adults.

Dr. Becky Bockman, the school’s principal, acknowledged that the change will be a challenge for the community, especially for students who have become dependent on their personal devices. However, he believes that the benefits to students’ well-being, academic success, and safety will be significant.

“Changing habits and patterns will be a challenge,” Dr. Bockman said in a letter to parents. “Any plan will have an adjustment period as we work out the kinks and concerns.”

The decision to implement the new policy comes after the school actively worked with staff to investigate options to address the significant barrier to students’ mental health, focus, and learning posed by cell phones at school. The burden on teaching and administrative staff to manage cell phones and the behaviors enabled by them is considerable, according to the school.

While cell phones have been forbidden per APS policy, the school has found that its current rules do not provide the desired results. The new policy aims to limit students’ use of electronic devices during the school day, in line with APS policy.

Dr. Bockman and his staff will spend the next few weeks putting a plan in place that prioritizes safety, communication, equity, and consistency. The school will release an FAQ that will be updated frequently as the details of the plan are solidified.

“We truly believe that the benefits to students’ well-being, their academic success and their safety will be enormous,” Dr. Bockman said. “However, I know it’s hard for students to see these benefits from their vantage point.”

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