Cellphones and smartwatches will no longer be allowed for students in grades 6-12 at Regional School Unit 1 after the school board backed new policies at Bath Middle School, Woolwich Central School and Morse High School.

The school board on Monday night passed the draft ban in a 6-2 vote, with opposing votes from members Patricia McLaughlin and the student representative. The policy banning the use of cellphones will be implemented in the next school year, with a new set of protocols for both students and teachers to follow.

Students will have give up their phones when they enter the school and can retrieve them after the final bell.

The recent cellphone ban follows a national trend that has stretched into Maine, with two school districts in Central Maine banning cellphones in the classroom last year.

“If you remember the charts I showed you last time on how much time is spent on screens and social media, that is actually increasing depression and anxiety in students,” said RSU 1 Assistant Superintendent Katie Joseph. “We would like to protect as much screen-free time as we can during the moments where we can control them.”

Assistant Superintendent Katie Joseph (right) reviews the new cellphone policy with school board member Jennifer Ritch-Smith (left) during discussions on banning cellphones in the classroom. Paul Bagnall / The Times Record

Joseph met with the principals and assistant principals Tuesday to finalize the new procedures and protocols and figure out ways to communicate the new rules to students as soon as possible.


The school board members recognized the decision wouldn’t be popular but added the hope that students would see the benefits of the cellphone ban in the long term in addressing youth mental health.

School board member Lou Ensel reiterated the negative effects phones and social media have on mental health, with students doing better in the school day without cellphones.

The decision to ban cellphones has been a months-long debate for the school board, including reviews of research on the mental health effects social media and phones have on school-aged kids.

When entering school, students will place their phones in Yondr pouches for safe keeping, being allowed to open the pouches after classes let out for the day.

School board member Anita Brown shared concerns about taking away the power and agency that cellphones give students. She also shared reservations about using school funds of around $34,000 to purchase the Yondr pouches but had no doubts that the pouches would work.

“We don’t put tape over [the students] mouths to keep them from speaking,” Brown said. “They have to make a conscious decision to follow the rules [and] the pouch is effectively duct tape.”


RSU 1 staff will not be able to use their phones during class time but will not be required to use the Yondr pouches. Staff can use their phones during prep time and breaks for job-related or personal reasons.

RSU 1 will accommodate technology, such as phones or watches, for health reasons, such as insulin monitoring. Wireless headphones are still allowed and used for watching instructional videos with permission at appropriate times.

Chromebooks will still be allowed in the classroom, with the caveat that they not be used to text or monitor social media.

Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated when students would store their phones in Yondr pouches for the day. The phones will be stored when students enter the school, not classrooms. 

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