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Parents worried about Martinsville student cellphone policy

Parents concerned with new cell phone policy – News 8 at 10

MARTINSVILLE, Ind. (WISH) — One week into the new school year, some parents are questioning the Metropolitan School District of Martinsville’s new policy on cellphones.

Students cannot have phones in the classrooms and must keep them in their lockers until school is done for the day.

“My success teacher saw it in my pocket and I got in trouble,” said Wiatt Byington, an eighth grader at John R. Wooden Middle School.

The board approved the policy in July. Wiatt’s mother Tabitha Maxwell didn’t know about it until class started Aug. 14.

“After the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, where the students were able to update their parents, call 911, update authorities on where the shooter was, and check in with their peers, I don’t understand why you would take that away from a child,” Maxwell said.

Bell Intermediate Academy, which has fifth graders and sixth graders, introduced a similar policy in 2015. Martinsville High School requires students to put their phones in a designated area in each classroom.

“Keeping students engaged and learning throughout the school day is just part of the push to keep cell phones out of the classroom. Bullying through social media, inappropriate recording of other students, and video-chatting has negatively impacted schools due to the past availability of cell phones,” said Eric Bowlen, superintendent of the Metropolitan School District of Martinsville, in a statement to News 8.

Maxwell said, “I don’t disagree. It is a distraction, but I don’t see how having it physically on them in a classroom causes that distraction. Just have a firm set of rules about having it out, and follow those rules.”

Maxwell circulated an online petition protesting the policy. She believes having a phone nearby could save a child’s life in case of a school shooting.

“I don’t want to think about losing my child. I don’t want to think about anyone losing their child, but that’s the world we live in now. If the only thing I get is the ability to say I love you and goodbye, I want it,” Maxwell said.

The school district said classrooms are equipped with phones and an intercom system should there be an emergency. Students and staff are also being trained on a safety app called ALICE, which stands for alert, lockdown, inform, counter and evacuate.