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Monroe County schools ban students from having phones out in class

a young girl sits in front of a school computer looking at her phone.
Sarah Gonzalez
/
StateImpact Florida

As students in Monroe County return to school this week, they won’t be allowed to have their cellphones out in class — at least for kids in kindergarten through eighth grade.

“What led to that was, I mean — ugh — they're so addicted to their phones,” said Key Largo School Principal Darren Pais.

Since the pandemic started, Pais says he’s noticed a significant increase in students being glued to their phones.

“Something would be on Snapchat or on TikTok. And they would start arguments with each other. Or they would literally just leave class so they could go dance in the bathroom,” Pais said. “Such a distraction.”

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Pais says social media can escalate conflicts between students — classroom rumors about who’s dating who are now supercharged by video evidence and comment threads.

“It used to be, ‘so-and-so said’, but now you have video proof,” Pais said. “Then this group will take sides and this group will take sides. And they say they're going to meet up at the park and you've got to call parents, you’ve got to call everybody involved.”

“It puts this pressure on these kids to do stuff that they don't want to.”

The new no cellphone policy applies to all of Monroe County’s K-8 schools. According to a district announcement, students “must have their phones put away and will not be allowed to have them out at any time while on campus unless specifically requested by a teacher.”

Pais says he’s been getting buy-in from parents, many of whom are also struggling with how to manage their kids’ screen time and social media usage.

“To be honest, a lot of the parents are saying the same things that we're saying,” Pais said. “They want their kids to stay off of the phone.”

Pais says Key Largo School will give students some leeway on the new policy for the first few days of the new year. But if they don't stick to the rules, he says students' phones will be confiscated and kept in the principal's office.

If Monroe County parents need to reach their kids, district staff say they can always call the front office.

Kate Payne is WLRN's education reporter