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'From the first bell to the last bell': Parents at Shawnee Mission Schools push for phone-free school days

Phone-Free School Movement
Posted at 10:32 PM, Jun 28, 2024

KSHB 41 reporter Alyssa Jackson covers portions of Johnson County, including Overland Park, Shawnee and Mission. If you have a story idea to share, send Alyssa an email to alyssa.jackson@kshb.com

Students spend the majority of their time in classrooms and school hallways while at their schools.

With the constant distraction of phones and social media, a phone-free school movement is becoming a focus in the Shawnee Mission School District.

Kim Whitman is the parent of two teenagers in the district. She co-founded a nationwide campaign to protect students from the negative impacts of technology on their development in and out of classrooms.

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Kim Whitman is the parent of two teenagers in the Shawnee Mission School District.

"I had a friend tell me she checked her son's phone after school and he had five hours [screen time] at school. So how much learning is going on?" Whitman asked.

Other parents, including Grace Hobson, have joined in to take this initiative to the Shawnee Mission School Board.

"The phones need to be banned from the beginning of the day to the end of the day," Hobson said. "The first bell of the day to the last bell of the day."

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Grace Hobson, parent

The two mothers know this isn't just a problem at schools.

Hobson and Whitman have established boundaries in their homes.

"We have parent controls on the phone," Whitman said. "Our children cannot even access the Internet on their phone."

Hobson turns off social media apps for her kids after a certain time and keeps their phones in her bedroom overnight.

Shawnee Mission School Board members recently discussed their five-year strategic plan.

They acknowledged the need to have a clear policy on the use of technology in classrooms. So far, according to a school board member, there is not an official policy.

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Shawnee Mission School District parents Kim Whitman (left) and Grace Hobson (center) speak with KSHB 41 News reporter Alyssa Jackson (right)

No phones during the school day also are under discussion in the Olathe Public Schools.

They will make a decision at a meeting in the near future.

"If you don't have a phone-free school policy, you are going to be left out," Whitman said. "Your kids are going to fall behind."

They believe this won't just be a campaign soon, it will be the norm at schools everywhere.

"It will be the smoking and drunk driving movement of tomorrow," Hobson said. "This is a thing."