Racine students lock cellphones away for class

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RACINE, Wis. (CBS 58) -- "Put your phone down and pay attention."

Parents and teachers around the world have said it or thought it at one time or another. But St. Catherine's High School in Racine is doing something about it. Principal Michael Arendt says the idea is bringing engagement from students back in the classroom.

"We've seen our failure rates drop because of it," Arendt said.

St. Catherine's has done it since last November. Every student is issued a pouch, where their cellphone goes in as they enter school. The pouch stays with the student throughout the school day, but it makes the cell phone unusable. A wall-mounted magnet opens the pouches up for kids when they leave.

The pouches are made by Yondr, if you've seen comedian Dave Chappelle live in concert recently, you've probably used one.

Kids who need access to their phone, or an app on their phone for medical reasons, have special pouches. And Arendt says in the event of an emergency, these pouches can actually be beneficial.

"We worked in cooperation with the county sheriff's department, the city police department to put these policies in place," he said.

In the event of an emergency, students, parents and first responders get one unified message from the school about exactly what to do.

Not a barrage of separate texts and 911 calls with potentially incorrect information.

"Now (police) are quicker to be able to react," Arendt said.

Parents who need to communicate in a non-emergency with their student can send an email that goes directly to their school-issued iPad.

Parents who need their student to leave school can call the office.

"We get them out of class, they come down, they are waiting for you when you get here," Arendt said.

Arendt says this "anti-technology" is starting to pop up at school districts across southeast Wisconsin.

"There are two, three additional schools that started implementation of them this year," he said.

And maybe the best testimony to this bag's effectiveness, Principal Arendt says the students don't really like them.

"It was watching 480 children go through withdrawal," he said.

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