THORNDALE, Texas (KXAN) — One Central Texas school district will require students to lock up their phones during the school day in a "magnetically sealed pouch," its superintendent wrote in a letter to parents.
Thorndale ISD, which is located in Milam County, will start the policy in the next school year at Thorndale middle and high schools. The district has about 600 students, according to state data.
The program, called Yondr, requires students to secure their phones in a personal pouch that they will keep with them during the day. Students must bring the pouch to and from school daily. When students leave school, they tap the pouch to an unlocking base to access their phones, smart watches and wireless earbuds.
In the letter, Superintendent Adam Ivy wrote district staff members visited another ISD to see how it used the Yondr program. They spoke with teachers who said engagement is better, distractions are fewer and cyberbullying and cyber safety issues were "almost...non-existent," the letter said.
When it comes to lockdowns, parent-student communication and other scenarios, Ivy wrote the Texas district said: "that they had found no credible reason not to implement the program and that the benefits have completely outweighed any growing pains."
The letter's frequently asked questions section said law enforcement believe it safer for students to refrain from using devices in emergency situations. But the district is working on a plan for when devices are necessary for lockdown situations.
Students who do not follow school rules will face $15 fines on each offense and suspension days based on the number of offenses.
"We have spent a lot of time discussing this and trying to play devil’s advocate to look for holes in the system," Ivy wrote. "After much thought, prayer and discussion we believe that this will absolutely be in the best interest of our students' education, health and safety, which is the litmus test we use for all such decisions."
The letter also said elementary students will not use the Yondr program but instead use a different, unnamed system.
Thorndale ISD students go back to school Aug. 17.