By DAN TOMASELLO

LYNNFIELD — The School Committee is looking to adopt a cellphone and electronic device policy for students before the start of the 2024-2025 academic year. 

While the proposed cellphone and electronic device policy is still a work in progress, the School Committee began discussing it during a recent meeting. School Committee member Jim Dillon, who serves on the Policy Subcommittee, said students’ cellphone use in class has become a “national issue.”  He noted that the Los Angeles Unified School District banned cellphones in the city’s schools last month. 

“We looked at 15 other districts’ policies and included the principals in the evolution of this process,” said Dillon. “What I saw was the higher performing districts had stricter policies. Weston, Winchester and Dover-Sherborn had among the strictest policies for cellphones, and they are some of the highest performing districts.” 

In response to a question from School Committee member Jamie Hayman, School Committee Chair Kate DePrizio said the district currently does not have a cellphone policy, but said the district-wide handbook includes rules about cellphone and electronic device usage. 

“The goal for the policy is making sure our faculty can enforce the rules,” said DePrizio. 

Dillon said the policy’s goal for elementary school students entails having children leave their cellphones and smartwatches at home. 

“We encourage parents to contact the main office if they need to get in touch with their student,” said Dillon. “If a child does bring a cellphone, smartwatch or similar electronic device to school, it must remain off and in the student’s backpack. Watches should not be worn during school hours.” 

School Committee Vice Chair Kristen Grieco Elworthy said the policy recommendation is “not a huge departure” for the elementary schools. 

“It’s not a radical change,” said Elworthy.  

DePrizio said the policy will still allow students to access their cellphone or smartwatch “before and after-school in case a student has to contact their parents.”

“They will be able to use it before and after-school so it is not a distraction during school hours,” said DePrizio. 

Dillon said the policy’s goal for Lynnfield Middle School students seeks to prohibit students from using cellphones, smartwatches and headphones “in the school building during regular school hours.” 

“They should remain shut off and placed in lockers at all other times,” said Dillon. 

Dillon said the policy’s goal for Lynnfield High School students entails prohibiting students from using cellphones and other devices in class, but said students will be allowed to use them during lunch and study halls. He said LHS students will be required to shut off and place their phones and devices into backpacks when they are not being used. 

Additionally, Dillon said the policy will include “disciplinary measures for non-compliance” for students in all four schools.  

While Hayman said the school system “needs a cellphone policy,” he asked how “will it be enforced.” 

“You have got teachers who enforce things unevenly across the district,” said Hayman. “It’s nothing against our teachers. I think it is in part human nature. If you have a teacher who says ‘I don’t care’ and another teacher says ‘put that away,’ you are actually creating an equity issue. I want something that is fair, equitable and can be enforced. It is hard to enforce things such as policies because there is going to be blowback from parents. We have to be prepared to support our principals and teachers.” 

Interim Superintendent Tom Geary said Hayman was “100 percent right that teachers may enforce things differently from time to time.” However, he said the new policy will serve as “the tool for enforcement.” 

“The fact is we didn’t give them a policy to enforce,” said Geary. “We have to have our teeth in something before anyone else can say what the consequence is going to be.” 

Dillon agreed with Hayman that, “Enforcement is important.” 

“If a teacher is not enforcing this policy, they are not doing their job,” said Dillon. 

“So what you are saying is, if teachers don’t take away cellphones, they should be fired?” Hayman asked. 

Dillon said Hayman was “making a little bit of a leap.” 

“Nobody said they should be fired,” said Dillon. “I think a good principal can have their staff enforce policy without threatening to fire them. If you have to do that, you are a horrible principal.” 

Elworthy said LMS Principal Stephen Ralston recently told the School Committee that cellphones have been distracting students from learning in class. 

“We are all parents who have kids that use screens, and you can’t compete with what is on those screens,” said Elworthy. “If we don’t give them a tool, I don’t know how we can ask them to enforce it.” 

DePrizio said the cellphone and electronic device policy will make sure that administrators, teachers and staff, “Use discretion when making decisions.” 

“The goal is to create a culture where cellphones are not needed during the school day,” said DePrizio. “The goal is not to be consequential to students, and not turning teachers into police. The goal is to create culture. I think there is a buy-in from everyone to put our focus back on teaching and learning. This is a vehicle to do it.”