One in three Yondr bags broken after first advisory

Elie Salem and Maya Wilson

Over one-third of Yondr bags are broken, according to a Beacon survey of all the Yondr bags in Wilson math and science classes. The damages are caused primarily by student vandalism and overuse.

Many of the bags can be easily repaired, and Wilson’s contract with Yondr provides no limit on replacement bags. Principal Kimberly Martin, as well as multiple teachers, stated that she believes the new phone use policy is effective despite the broken bags.

The Beacon survey classified a bag as broken if it could be opened fairly easily by hand without a demagnetizing disc. In many cases, the needles of the bags were slightly slanted, curved, or forced flat along the bag. In multiple classes, however, students had forcibly removed the magnetized button or ripped the bag itself.

Vandalism is a Tier 4 violation in DCPS’ rules, meaning students can be suspended for damaging the bags, in addition to paying a fee: $25 for the first offense, $35 for the second, and $45 for the third.  Thus far, however, no student has received a suspension for vandalizing yondr bags.

Damaged bags are returned to Yondr, and replacements are sent in exchange.

Martin explained that the onus is on teachers to track which bags belong to which students, and then report the incident to a dean for further disciplinary action. “The idea was that teachers would label them and there would be some system where you have bag number 25, and if bag number 25 goes missing during third period, then I know you’re the one,” she said.

In practice, this method has encountered some obstacles. As many teachers move locations throughout the day, some Yondr sets aren’t assigned to teachers, but to physical classrooms. This makes it more difficult for the instructors to determine which students should be held responsible. Moreover, there’s simply not enough time for teachers to examine every bag after every period, which means that many broken bags remain in use and students are not held accountable.

Most teachers surveyed were surprised by the number of broken bags in their class, though many of those bags were fixable. Unless the needle is curved or the neoprene itself is damaged, the bag can be fixed with a bit of force in a matter of seconds. “The needle just needs to be perfectly straight, if it’s not bent from the bottom then yeah, you just straighten it,” math teacher Walker Yane said.

Martin and multiple teachers maintained that the damages do not negate Yondr’s value or usefulness. “Kids who do pay attention also get distracted by their phones. If those kids do comply, you’ve won over 50 percent of the brains of kids. And that’s better than having no system at all,” Martin said. “The idea wasn’t to have bags that worked perfectly, the idea was to get kids less distracted.”

“I don’t think that the broken bags have had a big impact on their usefulness,” math teacher Alex Jacoby said. “If your phone was out in class and it had to be in the Yondr bag, there is no room for debate there; everyone knows exactly what’s expected.”

Damages to science teacher Angela Benjamin’s Yondr bags have led her to stop using them altogether. “There are too many broken [bags] to be helpful,” Benjamin said