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Cell Phones in Schools: To ban or not to ban?

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- To ban or not to ban cell phones in schools is a decision all school districts have to make. There is no denying cell phones are a distraction, but they can also be used to enhance the curriculum and used during emergencies.

Germantown High School takes a restrictive approach to cell phones in school. In fact, students caught with their phones can be fined up to $218.

The School Resource Officer says students 16-years old and younger face a $124 ticket. This is where the money goes:

$50-Germantown Police Department police department

$33-Court costs

$5-state

$13-drug fee-state

$10-jail assessment -Washington County Jail

$13-goes to a penalty assessment (state)

Students 17 and older face a $218.50 fine.

“There is a municipal ordinance which means that if they're in violation of it or non-compliant they can be ticketed,” Germantown High School Principal Joel Farren said.

The school has been banning cell phones since 2006.

Six students have been ticketed so far this school year, 159 students fined since the policy went in place.

“I think students are much more engaged and focused on academics and being with each other,” Kellie Hasbrook, Germantown High School Student said.

Students at Germantown High School can't have their phones on them, but Principal Farren says they have a plan for emergencies.

“We have 20 people with security radios in the building,” Principal Farren said. “We have an elaborate lockdown system. Every classroom has a phone.”

Now, other schools, like Menomonee Falls High School, are turning to Germantown for inspiration to create their own cell phone rules.

Menomonee's new policy this school year requires students put their phone away during class.

If students are caught, they have to hand it over to the teacher.

“I'm sure that there are some that aren't really happy with me, but the overall information that I've gotten from kids is thank you, you've taken a distraction away from us,” Menomonee Falls High School Principal Robert Vitale, said.

Principal Vitale says he didn't want to completely ban phones because he wants students to learn how to use their phones responsibly

“They can use them in study hall, they can use them in the cafeteria, so getting that college and career feel that there are times when you can use your phone, but there are times where you cannot use it,” he said.

We looked at eleven school districts in Southeast Wisconsin and found that ten ban cell phone usage in the classroom.

Here is a list of some of the schools that ban cell phone usage in the classroom:

Germantown High School

Menomonee High School

School District of Waukesha

Kenosha Unified School District
Racine Unified School District

Milwaukee Public Schools

Pewaukee School District

Mequon-Thiensville School District

Whitefish Bay School District

Nicolet High School

Not all Wisconsin students have to put their phones away.

Elmbrook students are allowed to use their phones at the teacher's discretion, and in some Madison schools, instead of banning phones, they are testing out blocking apps and turning off the Wi-Fi.

“If we could guarantee optimal usage, I think most people would be in favor but in reality, we're dealing with young learners who are still trying to figure out how to regulate behavior and figure out what is an appropriate use of the device,” Ryan Krohn, Institute for Personalized Learning Director, said.

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