Akron pilots $43K no-cellphone policy to address school violence as superintendent resigns

Akron Public Schools is piloting a no-cellphone policy to combat the alarming amount of violence in its public schools – a problem which led the superintendent to resign.

The Ohio district’s board of education voted Monday to try out “Yondr bags,” which use magnetically locked pouches to “create phone-free spaces.”

The new policy comes on the heels of record high school violence plaguing Akron schools, including fights and stabbings that often require police intervention, as previously reported by The Lion.

“The Akron community’s outpouring of concerns regarding school safety and security are being ignored by Akron Public Schools,” Patricia Shipe, president of the Akron Education Association, said in December. “Weeks of unparalleled fighting are now a daily occurrence within Akron school buildings.”  

In January, the Akron Beacon Journal requested all police reports taken at public schools and received over 800 pages of reports detailing stories of student and staff hospitalization, multiple fights at the same school on the same day, brawls large enough to be considered riots and allegations of sexual assault and other abuse.  

And these were only the incidents reported to the police.  

Superintendent Christine Fowler-Mack, who defended the school’s disciplinary policy as “balanced with the empathy and compassion,” announced her resignation on Monday, despite only being two years into a three-year contract. The policy was criticized for being too soft on consequences. 

“I think it was necessary. I wasn’t surprised,” said local parent Teresa Ridgeway of the resignation. “I’m hoping we can get somebody in place that’s really ready to look at that code of conduct to talk about consequences, to talk about making things stick and really actually promoting a change for Akron Public Schools.”  

School officials are optimistic the no-cellphone policy will also help, citing success in other schools.  

“We spoke to enough students and teachers and administrators in other districts that echo that, that believe that it’s made a huge positive impact on their district,” said Shipe.  

Akron’s pilot program will cost taxpayers roughly $43,000 and last several months.