ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – In its July 11 school board meeting, the Abilene ISD board voted on an update to the student code of conduct – specifically, to change the schools policy on student cellphone use during instructional hours.

Under the old rules, students of any grade could have their phone on them but it had to be silent and remain in their pocket during class time. If a student was caught using their phone during class it could be confiscated and the student could pick it up at the end of the day.

A second offense required a parent to pick up the phone and pay a $15 retrieval fee. That fee would then go towards a ‘student activity fund.’

Under the new policy, which passed unanimously with a vote of 7-0, elementary and middle school AISD students can no longer have their phone on their person. The devices must be turned off and stored in their backpack, or at a designated location in the school during instructional hours.

Any student caught with their phone out at an unauthorized time will have the device confiscated. Parents must retrieve the phone and pay the $15 retrieval fee, now required on a first offense.

“This is a move toward trying to really draw a much harder line in the sand on device usage,” said Abilene ISD superintendent Dr. David Young.

This issue was brought to the board’s attention by a group of middle school AISD principals.

“They very clearly stated that the cell phone… Was out of control and the use was out of control, and we needed to rein that in,” said Dr. Gustavo Villanueva, AISD Assistant Superintendent for Leadership and Student Services.

Many Big Country teachers, like Brenda Dame, backed Dr. Villanueva’s assessment. Dame said she hopes something will be done to stop the daily distractions.

“We ask the students to keep their phones up during instructional time. But you hear the buzzing, the students will peek down, and they’ll try to be sneaky with looking down at their phones,” Dame said. “But it’s a constant disruption.”

While Dame isn’t an AISD teacher, she said she was in favor of theses sorts of actions if they can help the situation.

“Phones are the issue,” Dame pressed. “It’s one of the biggest issues teachers face.”

On the other side of things, some parents expressed concern over direct communications with their student during emergency situations.

Some teachers continued to advocate that, with technological advancements, phones do much more than just help people communicate. They said distractions lie with gaming, streaming and browsing during class time.

“If they want to do something else, and they have their phone, they can do something else,” Dame said.

This decision will be in finalized on all Abilene ISD campuses for the upcoming 2022-2023 school year.