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Friess: No phones in class mean better behavior
GBHS principal praises new policy
RAK Club 2019 Tim Friess
GBHS Principal Tim Friess is shown addressing the Great Bend USD 428 Board of Education in this undated photo. - photo by Susan Thacker

Students and teachers alike were skeptical about Great Bend USD 428’s new cellphone policy, but it is having positive results throughout Great Bend High School, Principal Tim Friess told the board of education members recently.

The policy used to say no cellphone in the classroom, “unless allowed by the teacher.” The new policy that went into effect this fall is simply “no phones in class.”

“I think the policy has affected our teachers more than the students,” Friess said.

The policy adopted in July states that electronic communication devices may be used during passing periods and/or during lunch at the high school but not in the classroom. The first offense results in a warning and continued offenses can lead to after-school detention. The policy isn’t just for phones; it may include earbuds and watches if they are used for the purpose of communication.

So far this semester, Friess said, there have been 92 “electronics violations.” In 89 of these cases, the teachers took the students’ phones for the hour and in three cases the phones were taken for the day. Last year by this time teachers had taken nine phones for the day, Friess said, addressing the school board when it met at GBHS last Thursday.

“Students are more focused in class,” Friess said. As an added benefit, students are no longer texting each other during class to meet up in the bathrooms and vape.

“This has taken away most problems in the bathrooms,” he said. At this point last year there were 590 discipline referrals and so far this year there have been 294. Nine students had been suspended for vaping at this point last year and only one has been suspended so far this year.

The policy of no phones in the classroom helps students do the right thing and stay in class, he concluded.

“Many things go well around here,” Friess said. “Our kids have joined in that.” He thanked the school board for adopting the new phone policy, as well as a new policy on dealing with vaping.

A senior who attended the meeting, Emilee Hall, was asked what she thought about not being able to use her phone in class.

“I was, ‘Oh no!’ when I heard about the cellphone policy,” she said. In the past, after students finished their work the teachers often allowed them to pull out their phones. Hall said she and some of her classmates like to watch Netflix on their phones. “It hasn’t been the easiest adjustment,” she said, but she concluded it has been positive overall.

GBHS instructor Wendy Popp said she’s also seen an increase in the number of students checking out books to read. She relayed a comment from one student who told her, “I didn’t know I liked to read!”

School board member Aaron Emerson said the policy encourages more face-to-face communication among the students.

Board member Deanna Essmiller agreed that the policy was sound. “People have told me, ‘I’m so glad that the kids don’t have the phones whenever they want.’”

Capturing Kids’ Hearts

Above all, Friess thanked the board for adopting the Capturing Kids’ Hearts professional training in 2021 and continuing it. This program for K-12 professionals focuses on improving school culture, strengthening trust between teachers and students, building self-managing classrooms and creating accountability.

“This is my 41st year here (at GBHS) and that was by far the best thing that we’ve done for our kids and our people at this school. If we hadn’t (done so), this probably wouldn’t be the same place now,.” he said.

Culinary arts

Students from Katherine Hekele’s culinary arts class provided the meal for the Great Bend USD 428 Board of Education meeting last Thursday at Great Bend High School. There was an appetizer of assorted fruit, with entrees cheddar broccoli potato soup and a choice of ham and Swiss or turkey and cheddar sandwiches with lettuce and tomato. The dessert was sugar cookies.

The students were Kylyn Charles, Daniel Cruz, Avery Ellis, Mario Enriquez, Eddie Godina, Maddex Harmon, Caleb Hayes, Khloe Johns, Kasey Kennedy, Breonna Landers, Rachel Loera, Mariah Mata, Brissa Mendoza, Kylee Mohr, Tyrece Patterson, Rylee Prilling, Landon Roberts, Georgia Schwager, Chais Smith and Jasalyn Vanaman.