HCISD reports increase in cell phone incidents following $10 citation rule

Just over $1,000 in fines stemming from cell phones confiscated at Hays CISD high schools has so far been collected since the start of the school year. 

It’s all part of Hays CISD’s crackdown against distractions in the classroom, which began when the board of trustees in August approved a $10 fine for phones collected due to violations of its telecommunications policy during the school day.

The rule took effect Aug. 27, but the district offered a three-day grace period at the start of the semester before teachers began enforcing policy. Unauthorized use of cell phones can include texting, browsing social media sites or gaming. 

“Before the semester we received concerns over the policy,” said Tim Savoy, HCISD chief communications officer. “But since, we haven’t had any complaints from parents or teachers. If we do something unpopular we usually hear about it through email or our Let’s Talk program.”

The increase in confiscated phones is expected as teachers are being more diligent under the new rule, Savoy said.

Before establishing the $10 fine, the district established the Drive Your Own Device (DYOD) program to encourage the appropriate use of phones and tablets for learning. Savoy said the DYOD program, which has been in place for six years, created a gray area for technology use in the classroom.

Prior to DYOD, the district had a $15 plan in place, which many parents found to be too high, leading them to believe there was a push to confiscate phones for profit, Savoy said.

Hays CISD’s $10 fine will go toward a charitable cause; a worthy cause has not yet been determined.

“The fines won’t benefit a specific campus in any way, so the only reason to confiscate would be to decrease distractions in the classroom,” said Hays High School principal David Pierce.

Pierce said there was no negative data point, such as falling test scores or grades, that drove the push against cellphone misuse. Teachers and some students just wanted to decrease texting, social media use and video gaming during class time, Pierce said.

Data provided by district officials states the fine applies to high school students, but middle school students’ cellphones are also subject to confiscation.

Hays High students are responsible for the majority of the fines. Of the 116 phones collected so far, 92 of those were confiscated from Hays High students.

There is no limit to how long the school can hold devices, but should a student be unable or unwilling to pay, there will be an option to work community service hours in exchange.

Parents flocked to social media before the semester to express concerns about the new policy. Many parents said the fine was excessive, and it was possibly dangerous for students to be without their phones.

The district has not reported receiving similar complaints to date.

“We do have some parental support,” Savoy said. “They know we’re doing the right thing.”

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