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'I hate it' | Middle school's new cell phone lockup policy is not sitting well with some parents

The program requires students to lock up their cell phones in a pouch until the end of the school day.

TORRINGTON, Conn. — Monday was the first day of a controversial new no phone policy at Torrington Middle School.

“I hate it,” said parent Lauren Sutcliffe.

The program, which has the best of intentions but its implementation has pros and cons, requires students to lock up their cell phones in a pouch until the end of the day.

“I’m not sure that putting them in a pouch for the full day is the best policy,” added Fran Rabinowitz, the Executive Director of the Connecticut Association for Public School Superintendents.

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Rabinowitz told FOX61 other districts, instead, collect cell phones in a basket and just return them to students during lunch and recess.

“That might be an easier policy," she said.

Sutcliffe added that the school shouldn’t be making parenting decisions.

“Both of my 7th graders have cell phones and they should have access to them," she said.

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Michael Mosel started an online petition that has more than 600 signatures. He points out why some students may need their phones.

“Schoolwork, they need a calculator, they need to make an appointment with guidance. In case of an emergency it’s easier to get a hold of your parents on the cell phone now,” he explained.

The district contracted with the company Yondr for $60,000 to implement the phone-free pouch program. They cite a survey showing what 900 of their customers say are the benefits of reduced screen time including increased academic performance, student behavior and engagement.

Child psychologist Dr. Melissa Santos of Connecticut Children’s Hospital told FOX61 that there are some benefits.

“This really reduces the amount of opportunities that kids have to be teased and bullied,” she added. “They’ve been shown to actually get better grades on tests once we start to reduce the amount of cell phone usage they can have during school.”

Students who don’t follow this policy can face discipline ranging from suspension to expulsion.

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The Torrington School District is also considering a similar pouch program at the high school but the concern has been not enough staff to physically hand out the pouches.

Matt Caron is a reporter at FOX61 News. He can be reached at mcaron@fox61.com. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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