School is almost in for Texomans, and that means cell phones are coming back to class too. A lot of kids -- as young as elementary school age -- have cell phones, and there are a lot of concerns for teachers and parents about how to integrate them into the hallways so they're enhancing the learning experience instead of disrupting the classroom.
The debate at WFISD isn't about whether cell phones should be allowed in school. However, both school leaders and parents we spoke with say having one comes with a lot of responsibility for students -- and puts a lot of new challenges in the hands of the teachers.
"Sometimes they get distracting and its not really good because you're at school to learn," said 7th Jennifer Venzor. She's going to be a seventh grader this year. She has a cell phone that she takes to school, but her mom has made sure she knows the rules about when its okay to use it.
"If there in class they should have them at least on silent and if they want to check them during break there shouldn't be a problem with that," said her mother, Angela Venzor.
According to the Center of Media and Child Health, 54% of 8 to 12-year-olds will have cell phones within the next three years, and 84% of teens already own one.
"Its certainly found its way into our schools for several years now with cell phones that come in that students have for their own use. So we monitor those and try to be on top of that so that they're not a distraction in the classroom," said WFISD Public Information Officer Renae Murphy.
Wichita Falls ISD has a cell policy that allows students to have their cell phones in classrooms as long as they remain off. If a student is found using their cell phone, it is picked up and a the student or parent has to pay a $15 fee to get the phone back.
"Before or after school is appropriate but the classroom time is really where there needs to be a focus and attention on the teacher and the educational process and not the cell phone going off and things like that," Murphy said.
The debate over cell phones in schools remains, whether they are good or bad depends on how they are used.
"Its got its pros and cons. If they have them and they are only using them for emergency purposes, I don't think that's a bad thing as long as they're not using it for play time," Angela Venzor said.
WFISD is one of many districts across the state to implement the $15 cell phone fine. The Klein Independent School District near Houston put $100,000 in school coffers after the first year of implementing the fee.
The cell phone fine is also something students in Vernon have to pay. One parent we spoke to with in Wichita Falls mentioned the thought of giving her daughter a cell phone in elementary is unnecessary, and would only be a distraction.