One of the many “parking lots.”
Hemet Unified School District

Asking kids to give up their cellphones is not a pleasant experience. Adults anticipate the negotiating, whines, and eye rolls as they utter those dreaded words. What if I told you not only are educators not receiving these responses, but students are willingly giving up their phones to staff?

Tahquitz High School decided to implement a schoolwide no cellphone policy during class, after a successful test-run with the English department last year. Now at the beginning of each period, students are asked to park their cellphones in individual pockets at the front of the room. These cellphone pockets are referred to as “parking lots.”

The new policy was met with enthusiasm by staff, but the real indicator was how students would react. As expected, the first few days of school students tried different ways to negotiate with staff to keep their phones. However, as students were asked to “park” their phones at the beginning of each class, students became more compliant. Soon these schoolwide expectations became a routine for students and an amazing thing happened … students were fully engaged in their lessons, collaborating with other students on their work, and retaining the information being taught.

“At first I thought this was a bad idea,” said Mario Monje, a Tahquitz senior. “I’ve found that I’m more focused in class and paying more attention to what the teacher says.” He continued to say that it helps that the cellphone policy is schoolwide. He said he doesn’t feel like he is missing out on a text or something because his friends aren’t able to have their phones either.

“I feel like I’m more aware of when I’m using my phone,” said Tahquitz senior Guadalupe Carrasco. She said even though the policy allows students to have their phones out during passing periods and lunch, she keeps hers in her bag. “It’s been a good adjustment,” she said. 

To get students on board with the policy, staff created incentives to acclimate students to the change. Some staff members charge students’ phones as they are “parked,” and some provide participation points and other rewards.

“Since every staff member is required to enforce the policy, it’s made it easier,” said Jill Sugita, a math teacher. “It’s part of the culture now. Kids know they can’t access their phone during class so they don’t even bother asking for it anymore.”

Students have even reported that they forgot about their phone and left it “parked” in one of their classes.

Acacia Middle School has also implemented a no cellphone policy this school year. However, its policy does not require students to give staff their cellphones, but that it must be kept in their bags all day, including passing periods and lunch.

Similar to what Tahquitz staff experienced, Acacia administration reported that staff, students and parents have all been supportive of the new policy. When staff sees a phone, they inform students to put it away and students do. However, these interactions are becoming less frequent.

Some students, especially seniors, have mentioned that the transition has been harder for some. They said that as a senior they’ve had their phones accessible since middle school so it has taken them a little longer to adjust.

Great job to Tahquitz High School and Acacia Middle School staff for creating an engaging educational environment with minimal distractions.