Cell Phone Use in High Schools

In April 2022, our high school administrators conducted focus groups with students and staff to gather input on cell phone use. Next, a team of school division employees, including an administrator from each high school and staff from our Strategic Planning and Technology departments, worked together to draft a standard operating procedure (SOP) for cell phone use in high schools. Then, between May 18 and June 8, 2022, we invited students, teachers and families to review the draft SOP and provide feedback by participating in a brief survey. In response to that feedback, we have made several changes to the SOP. The revised SOP is published below, with markup shown as follows:

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Cell Phone Standard Operating Procedures for Cell Phone Use in High School Staff and Students

Last updated August 2, 2022


The following guidelines and procedures address concerns as identified by high school teachers, students and families about cell phone use in the classroom. Studies show that there has been a decrease in psychological well-being (mental health) and a decrease in academic outcomes since the increase as the result of cell phone use in youth by students during instructional time. This Standard Operating Procedure (“SOP”) supports School Board policies Policy JFC, Student Conduct, as well as and Policy IIBE, Acceptable Use of Technology.

Misuse of cell phones results in problems such as:

  • increase in depression
  • negative academic outcomes
  • chronic distraction during instructional times including phones ringing or receiving alerts
  • time allocated to behavior management instead of instruction
  • a negative effect on interpersonal relationships
  • an increase in student anxiety and aggression as observed by teachers
  • students using phones to coordinate and participate in problematic behaviors on school grounds; e.g., fighting, drug use
  • the documentation and publishing of student images and scenarios without permission on social media
  • “sexting” and sharing illicit photos
  • confidentiality and privacy concerns including honor code violations
  • cheating
  • bullying and cyberbullying

Purpose: to ensure a positive and, productive and safe learning environment for all high school students and staff.

Guidelines for Students

  1. Cell phones are use is prohibited in all classes during instructional periods; cell phones must remain silenced and out of sight. School-provided technology will be used to support learning and accessibility needs.
  2. Cell phones must be silenced and out of sight during all instructional periods. All other communication devices (e.g., smart watches) shall be off or away during instruction.
  3. Students may use cell phones before the start of the school day, between classes, during lunch, and after school.
  4. Students may not use cell phones in the restrooms or in the locker rooms of the school.
  5. Students may use headphones or earpods and smart watches in the same manner; i.e., only before school, during lunch, between classes, and after school. Students may use cell phones for instruction when deemed necessary by a 504 plan or IEP team, for medical purposes, and for translation.
  6. In the event of an emergency or other unforeseen circumstance, students should notify their teacher of the need to use their phone. With the approval of the teacher, the student will be permitted to go to use their cell phone. Office staff will provide a confidential space for students to use the phone as needed.

Disciplinary action:

  1. Teachers will remind students to put away their cell phones at the start of the period, as needed.

  2. The first offense will result in a verbal warning. The teacher/staff member will remind the student to silence the phone and put it away out of sight.

  3. Following a For the second offense, teachers will give a verbal warning to the student. tTeachers will also notify the a parents/guardian of the student's cell phone use and the verbal warning. Teachers will notify administrators by documenting the verbal warning in PowerSchool, using the “Staff Managed” notation.

  4. The second offense will result in the phone being taken away and the family contacted. If the student does not comply when asked to put the phone away, teachers will contact an administrator to retrieve the cell phone. A member of the family will need to pick up the phone from the main office. The student will review cell phone etiquette and reasons for the cell phone policy with the administration.
    The third offense will result in a parent conference and loss of phone privileges at the school for one week.
    The fourth offense will result in loss of phone privileges at the school. If a student refuses to give up put away the cell phone when requested by a staff member, the student will also be disciplined for insubordination.
  5. If a student possesses or uses such a device other than as permitted in this standard operating procedure, in addition to other disciplinary sanctions that may be imposed, the device may be confiscated from the student and returned only to the student’s parent.
  6. Leveled discipline will be applied by school administrators after the verbal warning to include parent/teacher/student conferences, referrals, cell phones being held in the main office, loss of phone privileges, or other leveled discipline in accordance with the ACPS Behavior Management Handbook, which aligns with the Model Guidance provided by VDOE.
  7. After repeated offenses and in consultation with the student and family, administration may require a cell phone contract to include cell phone “check-ins” at the main office or other designated space.
  8. Staff members will only “search” a cell phone in alignment with Policy JFG, Search, Seizure, and Investigation.


ALL SCHOOLS: Students may use cell phones for instruction, medical purposes and translation when deemed necessary by a 504 plan, IEP team or ESOL.

Guidelines for Staff Members Working in High Schools

  1. School-provided technology will be used to support learning and accessibility needs as well as student and family communication, as much as possible.
  2. School administrators and staff will review this standard operating procedure at the start of the school year and in conjunction with the embedded digital citizenship curriculum.
  3. Administrators, teachers, and other staff are professionals and should model appropriate use of technology, including cell phone use.
  4. Cell phones must be silenced and out of sight during all instructional periods. Teachers will not actively use smart watches or headphones/earpods during instructional periods.
  5. Staff may use cell phones before the start of the school day, during lunch, between classes, during planning periods, and after school.
  6. In cases of emergency where a cell phone is required, staff should model appropriate behavior.
  7. Staff members may also use cell phones, as appropriate, to monitor their own medical care.