Students in a Central Texas school district will no longer be able to use cell phones in their classrooms.

Trustees in Killeen Independent School District voted to restrict cell phone usage for students starting this fall.

“Phone-free schools will allow our students to better concentrate on schoolwork,” said Susan Buckley, the district’s assistant superintendent for administrative services. “It will encourage face-to-face interactions and the development of interpersonal skills that directly impact student success, which is our ultimate goal.”

Killeen ISD trustees approved a plan to make all secondary campuses phone-free during a June 11 board meeting.

Under the plan, each student will be issued a phone pouch with a security lock to store their cell phones during the school day.

Students will keep possession of their phones in the pouches. If students need to use their phones, they must get permission and go to a “phone zone” where they can tap their pouch on an unlocking base.

The pouches and unlocking bases will cost $523,000 for all Killeen ISD middle and high school campuses.

Buckley cited other school districts that have moved to phone-free schools, including La Vega ISD in Waco and Richardson ISD in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Both districts report recaptured classroom time for academic instruction, improved grades, and a drop in discipline issues related to cell phones.

While some Texas parents oppose school officials restricting their children’s phone access during class time, others approve of the policy.

North Texas mom and private school teacher Joy Roberts told Texas Scorecard that cell phone usage is not allowed in her school’s classrooms, but students have them turned off in their backpacks.

“What I don’t have to deal with is telling kids to get off their phones during class,” she said. “And I see kids interacting with each other instead of sitting on their phones, while still having access during an emergency.”

One Texas lawmaker is proposing statewide limits on phones in schools.

“It’s time that we step up as parents, as lawmakers, as administrators, and teachers, and say kids should not have access to cell phones while they are in classrooms,” explained State Rep. Ellen Troxclair (R–Lakeway).

Troxclair, a mother of three young children, said she’ll propose legislation next year to restrict cell phone use in all Texas schools.

“Constant cellphone use has exacerbated a mental health crisis among our youth, who have been relentlessly exposed to online content during critical years of formation and growth, including during school hours,” Troxclair wrote in a commentary for The Daily Signal.

Parents note that students’ use of school-issued iPads and Chromebooks during class adds to kids’ excessive “screen time.”

Social psychologist Jonathan Haidt wrote in his book The Anxious Generation that too much online exposure, especially on social media, has caused a “great rewiring of childhood” that’s resulted in an “epidemic of mental illness.”

Additionally, many Texas teachers charged with sex crimes used cell phones and social media apps to initiate sexual contact with students.

Haidt’s prescription: no smartphones before age 14, no social media until age 16, phone-free classrooms, and more free play time.

As Killeen and other Texas school districts implement phone-free policies, parents and teachers can assess the results and decide if the limits are beneficial for the children.

Erin Anderson

Erin Anderson is a Senior Journalist for Texas Scorecard, reporting on state and local issues, events, and government actions that impact people in communities throughout Texas and the DFW Metroplex. A native Texan, Erin grew up in the Houston area and now lives in Collin County.