LARGO, Fla. — Pinellas County School Board members unanimously approved a cell phone policy that creates a standard set of guidelines for all students in the school district. The policy is set to take effect in August.

Until now, it was up to the discretion of each individual principal to determine school cell phone rules.

What You Need To Know

  • Pinellas County School Board members approved a district-wide cell phone policy

  • To date, it’s up to the discretion of each individual principal

  • The policy is set to take effect in August

The new policy states that elementary school students must keep phones and other similar devices in the ‘off’ position and stored away during the school day. Phones can be used once the day concludes to coordinate transportation.

Middle school students have the same guidelines as the elementary schools, but may additionally use phones before school.

Meantime, high school students can leave their phones on silent but may only use them before and after school, during lunch, and when transitioning between classes. Phones cannot be used in ways that violate academic integrity, in restrooms, locker rooms, or swimming areas. Photos or video recordings cannot be taken while at school without prior consent.

All rules for cell phones for each age group also apply to smartwatches, the policy states. They must be turned to silent mode during the day and removed during district and state assessments.

Earlier this year, the school district surveyed more than 8,000 students, parents, and teachers and gathered information on what they felt the best way to enforce the new policy would be. Area Superintendent Dywayne Hinds told school board members during an April meeting that after the policy gets approved, the district will create a plan for how it will be rolled out to teachers and students and create guidelines for students who violate policy.

“When we did the survey, we did include questions on the survey that gave us some information about what are reasonable consequences of the specific policies related to cell phones,” Hinds said. “So these are things we’ll also be sharing with our administrators when it comes to best practices as they roll this out in their schools.”