The Richmond school board will discuss a possible cellphone ban after research shows violent threats among students

The Richmond school board will discuss a possible cellphone ban after research shows violent threats among students

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Some Richmond school leaders say making schools a phone-free zone could prevent violent threats among students.

The research, revealed by the Digital Working Group, shows that students accessed and created thousands of harmful content last school year using various platforms.

Jonathan Young said the research will be discussed at Monday night’s school board meeting.

The Digital Task Force is a committee made up of teachers, staff, students and parents. They were tasked with reviewing students’ digital use during the school day, including cell phones and RPS Chromebooks.

Their goal was to identify recommendations related to academic progress, student safety, and overall well-being.

The group used Gaggle, a filtering system to analyze everything created and accessed by student accounts for potentially harmful content. This includes harassment, self-harm and violence towards others, according to the group’s presentation.

Of those thousands of potentially harmful content, about 3,500 were violent threats involving physical violence, Young said.

He added that during the school year 2021-2022. 421 suicide assessments were carried out.

The Digital Task Force says most of the incidents they’ve uncovered fall into the category of violence against others via texting and Hangouts. Since the start of the school year, there have been about 3,500 alerts, with the majority occurring at middle and high schools.

Aspen, the school system’s student information system, recorded nearly 120 violations for cell phone use during the 2021-2022 school year.

In light of the group’s findings, Young told 8News he wants to eventually propose a cell phone ban, similar to what Hopewell City Public Schools implemented this year.

He said the ban could boost student performance and make schools feel safer.

“At this point we are lost. We are confused. We are broken and our students are unfortunately on the front lines of that,” he said.

Richmond Public Schools conducted a survey of teachers and staff for the 2021-2022 school year. The survey received 2,100 responses from faculty and staff. It was shown that 56% of teachers feel safe at school. At George Wythe High School, responses showed that 14% of its teachers felt safe.

“Our teachers are asking for help. They are crying out for help on this topic. And to connect all the dots, too few of our teachers and too few of our students in a recent survey said they felt safe in the buildings,” Young said.

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