At Ogden High School, the expectation is that when students are in class, their cellphones are stowed in their backpacks or purses.

Violators run the risk of their phones being placed in a locker in the classroom. Repeat offenders’ phones can be taken to the school office for additional consequences with parental involvement.

The restrictions were put in place at Ogden High after Utah Gov. Spencer Cox urged school leaders to support a policy halting cellphone use during class time. Rachel Trotter, whose daughter attends the school, supports the restrictions.

“Teachers need to be able to look those kids in the eyes and talk to them,” Trotter said. “If they’re looking at their phones, then they can’t do that very well, you know. It’s a good practice.”

Gov. Cox to public schools: Students should shelve cellphones while at school

Most Utahns support limiting cellphone use during instructional time, according to a new Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll.

Sixty-nine percent of Utahns said they supported the policy, while 26% were opposed and 6% said they “don’t know.”

The poll of 801 Utahns was conducted Jan. 16-21 and has a 3% margin of error.

Across all demographic groups, support for the policy was highest among people ages 57 and older with a combined 80% indicating they either strongly or somewhat supported the policy.

Respondents ages 18-24 were least supportive, with only 17% indicating they strongly supported the policy and 33% who were somewhat supportive.

Respondents with postgraduate education and annual household incomes of $150,000 and above were the most supportive of the policy, according to the poll results.

The poll results revealed a higher level of support for the policy among men compared to women. Forty-five percent of men polled said they strongly supported the policy and 28% said they somewhat supported it.

Among women, 35% indicated strong support and 29% said they somewhat supported the policy.

Trotter, who serves on Ogden High’s school community council, said parents had questions about students’ access to their cellphones in the event of an emergency at the school such as an armed intruder or a natural disaster. Parents were assured the restrictions would be waived during such an event, she said.

Cox seeks to crack down on cellphone use in Utah public schools

Cox raised the issue of students’ cellphone use during his PBS Utah governor’s monthly news conference in December, citing the negative impacts of social media.

“Cellphone-free learning environments will help our teachers teach and our students learn. We want to give our schools every opportunity to succeed and so I hope our local school districts and charter schools will join me in this effort to keep phones in backpacks or lockers during class time,” Cox said in a subsequent statement.

Earlier this year, he reached out to school principals and charter school leaders urging their support for restrictions. Many Utah schools had policies in place but others responded to Cox’s recommendation by implementing restrictions during class time.

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State school board rule addresses the use of electronic devices in schools. It directs school districts and charter boards to adopt electronic device policies that prohibit the use of electronic devices in ways that “significantly impair academic excellence; bully, humiliate, harass or intimidate school-related individuals ... or violate local, state, or federal laws.”

Trotter said parents are key to making school cellphone use policies work, meaning they need to limit contact with their children during school hours.

“As a parent, you get used to being able to have contact with your kids throughout the day, so that is something to think about. But there’s plenty of opportunities if I still need to get hold of my child, I can. So it’s not a big deal. And I think the less they can be on their phones, the better,” Trotter said.

Trotter said she supported the policy because cellphone restrictions were already in place in the junior high that her youngest child attends and that school feeds into Ogden High School. By the time her daughter attends high school, the policy and practice will be standard operating procedure for her, she said.

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