2 Seattle schools to say goodbye to cell phones in the fall

Jun 20, 2024, 2:43 PM | Updated: 3:00 pm

Photo: Starting this fall, students at Seattle's Hamilton International Middle School will have to ...

Starting this fall, students at Seattle's Hamilton International Middle School will have to lock up their cell phones in these pouches during school hours. (Photo courtesy of KIRO 7)

(Photo courtesy of KIRO 7)

Starting this fall, students at Seattle’s Hamilton International Middle School will have to lock up their cell phones and smart devices during school hours. The new policy requires them to place their phone in a locked pouch. They will still be able to hold onto their devices, but they won’t be accessible until the end of the school day.

A news release from Hamilton’s Parent Teacher Student Association (PTSA) Thursday said the goal is to “support academic performance, student engagement, mental health and staff retention while decreasing bullying and other disruptive behaviors.”

Molly Spence-Sahebjami, the vice president of Hamilton’s PTSA told KIRO Newsradio the school already has a cellphone policy in place called “away for the day,” meaning cell phones should not be visible or used at school.

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Spence-Sahebjami said the administration approached the PTSA and said it was having a hard time enforcing the “away for the day” policy. Therefore, parents and the administration came to the conclusion to lock up phones for the day. She added that schools around the country have already implemented this policy but Hamilton will be the first school in Seattle.

Parents concerned with cell phone policy

However, some parents are against the idea of the students needing to lock their phones away for the day, saying they won’t be able to get in touch with their kids during an emergency.

“What helped us feel better about all of that was there are so many schools and so many districts who have already gone through this,” Spence-Sahebjami told KIRO Newsradio on Thursday.

She then referenced one mother who said at a school meeting, “In a case of emergency, I actually want my daughter to be really present and self-aware and listening to teachers and in the moment and not (on) their cell phone. Imagine everyone being on their cell phone when they need to be paying attention.”.

PTSA: ‘More important is what happens every day’

Spence-Sahebjami said she worries more about what middle school students go through during the day with a device such as having a phone at lunchtime in the bathrooms or in other areas.

“Let’s think about safety in the big picture in an emergency situation, we want those pouches to be unlocked, we want those pouches to be able to, we want the unlocking devices to be in the school so the pouches could get unlocked and that could happen, but so much more important than that is the stuff that happens every day,” she said.

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She added that students with medical concerns, for example, those with Type 1 diabetes, would be given a velcro pouch so they would still have a deterrent but could access their phones.

Hamilton’s principal will be updating the school’s protocols in the coming months to ensure students can still be reached during an emergency situation.

According to Spence-Sahebjami, a school in Aberdeen was the first to implement the policy in Washington and Hamilton will be the second. However, other Seattle schools have plans to follow suit.

Second Seattle school to lock up cell phones in the fall

On Thursday, The Seattle Times reported that Robert Eagle Staff Middle School will also be locking up devices in the fall.

Robert Eagle Staff’s principal told The Seattle Times teachers lose five to 15 minutes of learning time in each class every week because of cell phones.

“It’s just to give the students an opportunity to fully focus on their classroom studies and make meaningful connections with their peers,” Stowell said in a video, via The Seattle Times.

Similar to Hamilton, each student will be assigned a pouch to lock up their devices and will get them back at the end of the day. In the video, Stowell added that parents can call or email the school’s main office, which is always staffed. Each classroom will also have a device to open the pouches if needed.

This story was originally published on June 14, 2024, at 6:17 p.m. It has been updated and edited since then.

Contributing: Aaron Granillo, KIRO Newsradio

Julia Dallas is a content editor at MyNorthwest. You can read her stories here. Follow Julia on X, formerly known as Twitter, here and email her here.

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2 Seattle schools to say goodbye to cell phones in the fall