(TNS) — ROCKFORD, Ill. — Auburn High School principal Janice Hawkins grew a little tired of tagging and then tracking cellphones snatched from students abusing the school's policies.
When Rockford Public Schools are back in session, she wants to assign 400 pouches -- with locks -— for chronic offenders who disobey rules by using their cellphones without teacher permission.
Students would have to lock up their cellphones until it's time to leave class.
"Let's deal with the ones that are being a problem and not the students who are doing what they're supposed to be doing and using their cellphones responsibly," Hawkins said. "It's in the pouch. You can't use it. You can't look at it. It helps to break that cellphone addiction."
If approved, she would spend money from Auburn's annual supply budget for the new pouches.
Rock River Valley school districts have spent years waging cellphone battles. As the devices became smarter, their policies evolved. Rules range from complete bans, which frequently happens at the elementary level, to bringing out their phones only for classroom lessons.
The cellphones can be a quick references for historical facts, word definitions and learning exercises, however.
Educators understand their value but want to eliminate potential distractions. Parents need to reach their children.
"(Students) can have their cellphones," Hononegah Community School District Assistant Superintendent Kim Suedbeck said. "We weren't going to fight the battle anymore."
Hononegah students, though, have to put their phones away unless they're using them as an instructional aide.
Freeport School District teachers have let high school students use cellphones for instructional purposes for the past five years. Middle school students aren't supposed to bring out their cellphones at any time.
"Cellphones are not just phone-calling devices," said Beth Summers, Freeport High School principal. "They are texting devices. They have access to everything that a small computer would have access to. I think that our policy has worked well for us."
School surveys determined more than 90 percent of the school's approximately 1,250 ninth- through 12th-graders have cellphones. About 70 percent make use of free Wi-Fi services.
Educators throughout the area agree letting students use their cellphones for Google searches and educational purposes emulates a real-world career environment.
Harlem High School opened its Wi-Fi network to students in January. Teachers let their students know whether they have a red, green or yellow light to use cellphones in the classroom.
Green lights are given when teachers let them use their cellphones for instructional purposes.
"We were actually real, real pleased with the amount of engagement," associate principal Jeremy Bois said. "We were very pleased with the outcome. It's really hard to quantify (but) they've really been excited. I can tell you that a lot of our teachers are using it, and they're very happy with it."
During the past year, North Boone Community School District went from requiring students to keep their cellphones in lockers, turned off, to letting them bring the cellphones into the classroom as long as they remained out of sight.
Teachers also are using them for instructional purposes.
Superintendent Michael Greenlee said the goal has been to teach children more responsible use ever since the district acknowledged, about a decade ago, that cellphones were an issue.
"The ability for kids to send out a message quickly just puts ... more pressure on us to put out a message that is timely and accurate," he said.
The Lena-Winslow School District recently voted to give teachers the discretion of using cellphones for instructional purposes in the upcoming school year.
"Teachers let it be known it would be a useful tool," Superintendent Tom Chiles said. "It's something that's being considered."
Elementary and junior high school students haven't been allowed to have cellphones. Junior high students checked their phones into the office upon entering the school or risked punishment, such as having them taken away for the day. High school students only used them before and after school and during lunch.
©2016 Rockford Register Star, Ill., distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.