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Mid-Michigan schools address cell phones in classrooms

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Some local school districts are taking a stance on whether students should have cell phones during class.

MID-MICHIGAN (WJRT) - Some Mid-Michigan school districts are taking a stance on whether students should have cell phones during class.

According to federal data, many school systems have instituted cell phone bans amid increased distractions. Two Mid-Michigan school districts are handling the devices and potential distractions in different ways.

An "away for the day" policy went into effect when fifth- to eighth-grade students returned from spring break at Essexville-Hampton schools. That bans cell phone use during school hours.

It was entirely written by school administrators, and the school board supported it.

"They were more conversational because they didn't have something to pay attention to so they could pay more attention to each other," seventh-grader Megan Lavigne said.

She said putting away phones has encouraged students to talk more to each other.

Superintendent Justin Ralston said the conversation began in January, when junior high school teachers noticed cell phones were causing distractions. He's already seen progress in students' interpersonal communication.

"One of the first things I heard students say is I'm actually learning other students' names," Ralston said.

"So, when they rolled out the cell phone policy, they sent out a question-and-answer sheet that really helped with why, and that there is a process in place for our kids to be safe if God forbid something bad would happen," parent and school board member Amanda Lavigne said.

Hemlock Public Schools is taking a different approach with no planned cell phone bans.

"We also want to empower students to be able to manage that behavior, because when they leave here, they're going to go to a workplace and they're going to have to keep that phone put away," Superintendent Don Killingbeck said.

Both schools agree that empowering teachers -- the leaders and eyes and ears of the classroom -- is key to any decisions on cell phones.

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