MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. — As several counties in the Tampa Bay area weigh the pros and cons of using cell phones in classrooms, one private school in Manatee County has already banned cell phones for students in kindergarten through 12th-grade.

What You Need To Know

  • Educational Harbor Christian School banned cell phones on May 1

  • If a student goes against these rules, there will be a one-day suspension

  • There are special allowances depending on the students’ needs

The principal and founder of Educational Harbor Christian School Stacey Mayo said that at first, they told students to leave their phones in their bags, but the devices were still too much of a distraction, so the school enforced the cellphone ban on May 1.

“Our overall goal actually isn’t just academic. Although there are academic benefits, I’ve read studies where having the cell phone in the room can affect their GPA and their attention. Just having the notifications close by them or on vibrate is enough to pull their focus away from their studies,” she said.

Educational Harbor Christian School is a private K-12th grade school in Manatee County.

One pastor and teacher in favor of this new policy is Ryan Akers, who teaches math and science.

“They are able to focus on what we are doing at the time without being distracted, and they are able to be on task a whole lot more,” he said.

With more than 20 years of teaching experience, he’s seen a lot change over the years.

“Well, when I started teaching, hardly anybody had a phone, especially the teenagers. There just weren’t very many. As we’ve gotten more and more used to phones in culture, they’ve come inside the classroom. It’s really hard to set down your phone,” said Akers.

Those distractions led school administrators to ban cellphones for all students.

When students arrive, they put their phones in this cubby that’s later locked by school staff, but for special circumstances the rules can change depending on the students’ needs. But every student will get their phone back at the end of the school day.

Educational Harbor Christian School's phone locker. (Spectrum News/Julia Hazel)

Akers says he’s already seen a positive impact on the students.

But not all parents are on board with this new rule. Denise Musso is against the cell phone ban that impacts her 11-year-old daughter. Her main concern is safety.

“If something were to happen, it would be very nerve-wracking. I think having phones locked up and not on their persons can cause a lot of anxiety. I think that you have to look at it case-by-case,” she said.

And the school does. There are some exceptions for students, like those with an Individual Education Plan. This family wants the school to change the policy for everyone.

“I hope that they will have good procedures in place and really get the parents involved and let them have some kind of a say on moving forward,” she said.

And her daughter likes to stay connected in the classroom. She wishes the rule would change too.

“I like having the phones more than not having them,” she said.

But Akers said limiting phones allow him to push his students to reach higher.

“The biggest hope is for the students to start to achieve their peak level,” he said.

It’s a new rule for students, but parents and school leaders agree — the goal of education remains unchanged.

If students don’t abide by the new rules, they will be suspended for one school day.