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Michigan superintendent optimistic about bill that would ban phones in schools

Rob Hampson

Cellphones can be the bane of educators. Students have their earbuds in, check their phone during class, and can escalate arguments online.

In Farwell, banning cellphones from the classroom has dramatically decreased incidents of cyberbullying and sharing inappropriate pictures.

That’s according to superintendent Steve Scoville. He said he hasn’t read the proposed bill in detail, but he said the concept is in the right place.

In his schools, students can bring phones, but the device has to be left in their locker during school hours, he said. Fewer phones in class means fewer distractions and fewer students being referred to the office for discipline.

"If a kid has a disagreement with somebody they immediately go to their phone and it blows up and it escalated," Scoville said. "Where, I think we know from saying it face-to-face, it’s received differently and it’s communicated differently."

He said if a student does need to use a phone, he says they must take a phone call in the office or get a medical exemption.

“There have not been any major complaints, and there have been less discipline referrals, resulting in kids who have got caught sneaking their cellphone in, versus the problems we were having before," Scoville said.

Phones aren’t necessary in Farwell schools for educational purposes because each student has a Chromebook, he said. For emergencies, every room has a phone connected to 911 dispatch.

Ben Jodway is an intern, serving as a reporter for WCMU Public Media and the Pioneer in Big Rapids. He has covered Indigenous communities and political extremism in Michigan.