Amid a growing national trend of school districts restricting student cell phone use, Bath-area schools officials are considering a phone ban for students in grades 6-12.

Katie Joseph, assistant superintendent for Regional School Unit 1, told the school board earlier this month she and administrators reviewed recent research that links student phone use to a lack of focus, lower test scores and mental health problems, including depression.

“We are constantly looking for ways to improve the mental health of our students, and this trend to create cell phone–free spaces is one that is now well researched and can be effective for this purpose,” she said.

She said a newly formed committee is gathering more information about the effects of school phone bans and will seek input from students, parents and the school community.

“We have to do a lot more research and surveying,” she said. “We would obviously need to involve the community and students in this decision.”

She said the committee could bring a formal proposal this spring to the school board, which would have to approve it.


Current phone policies at RSU 1 schools vary. At Morse High School, students can use phones in the halls and in the cafeteria but generally can’t use them in class except for certain situations like using a phone’s calculator function.

“Devices that may interrupt/distract the teacher and the class have no place in the classroom,” the school’s handbook states.

At Bath Middle School, students can bring phones to school and use them in the building during arrival, at breakfast in the cafeteria and when classes end. When class is in session, students can’t have phones on them — they must be stored in lockers or with school staff.

“Personal devices have become a growing distraction around the school and in the classrooms,” the school’s handbook reads. “Many students find ways to access their devices during the day, even when kept in their bags or in their lockers. Our intent is to limit the distractions and disruptions to our students’ school days, so that the focus can be on improving our students’ achievement.”

Joseph said administrators are researching Yondr pouches, which are used in schools, comedy clubs and other venues where organizers want to prohibit phone use. People put phones in the pouches, which are magnetically locked, and can keep the pouches with them until they need to open them by tapping an unlocking station that frees the magnetic bond.

In 2015, 67% of U.S. schools had cell phone bans, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. By 2020, that figure jumped to 77%.


Augusta school officials last year banned phones at Cony Middle and High School. Principal Kim Liscomb told the Kennebec Journal it “made an incredible difference.”

“There is a significant increase in engagement of students in the class, raising their hands and fully engaged in the activities,” she said.

Some parents have criticized phone bans, arguing they need to be able to contact their children in an emergency. Schools with bans have directed parents to call the central office to get connected with their child, though some parents have expressed concern about being able to contact their child during a school shooting.

Ken Trump, president of National School Safety and Security Services, told the National Education Association student phone use during an emergency like a shooting could actually make it more dangerous.

“During a lockdown, students should be listening to the adults in the school who are giving life-saving instructions, working to keep them safe,” he said. “Phones can distract from that. Silence can also be key, so you also don’t want that phone noise attracting attention.”

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