Classes start Sept. 1 for students in the Wauwatosa School District and with the new school year comes tighter restrictions on cell phones in all schools.

According to an email Superintendent Phil Ertl sent to parents Aug. 22, students will be prohibited from using or displaying cell phones in plain sight during the school day. Students who fail to follow the rules will have their cell phones confiscated and "appropriate disciplinary consequences will be assigned," Ertl wrote.

In an interview, Ertl said widespread cell phone use during school hours among students has increasingly become a distraction.

"I've recognized it to be something that gets in the way of learning," he said. He added teachers used to incorporate cell phones into lesson plans but with the advent of new district technology like Chromebooks, the handheld devices are no longer necessary.

Students may still keep their cell phones in their backpacks or pockets, but they need to be silenced and not used, Ertl said.

"Parents who wish to contact their students during the regular school day should call the school office," Ertl wrote in the email. "While I know this may cause a 'hardship' for some of us parents in our communication with our kids during the day, I hope everyone will support this effort to bring more focus to learning. Please talk with your children to let them know of this change."

Ertl said the new policy will force parents to "plan ahead" instead of attempting to communicate with their children during the school day. Ertl said he was "guilty as charged" for trying to communicate with his own kids that way, too.

The school district has had a policy banning cell phones in place since around 2010, but it has been loosely enforced.

School administrators and staff are expected to communicate this stricter enforcement to students on the first day of school.

Following a trend 

Wauwatosa is not the first school district to crack down on cell phones; a new policy enacted in January said students in the Waukesha School District must store their cell phones in lockers or backpacks during the school day.

In Milwaukee Public Schools, students can have cell phones but they cannot activate, display or use them while in school other than for approved educational purposes. The restriction in Milwaukee also applies to extra-curricular activities and field trips.

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