BETHLEHEM, NY (News10)-A recent message sent out from the Bethlehem Central School District reads that starting in September 2023 all 9-12 graders will be required to place their personal electronic devices into locking magnetic pouches.

The announcement posted online on May 3rd reads that the students will keep the locked pouches with them throughout the day but will be able to unlock them at one of several locations inside the high school upon dismissal. The district says that students with document medical issues would be given pouches with velcro closures, so they can immediately access their phones. Bethlehem senior, Alyssa Allen, who uses her phone to monitor her blood sugar told News10’s Anya Tucker that she does not like the whole idea. “I would rather them do it for only the kids that really get distracted and not for the kids who need it for like, a reason,” she said.

Alyssa’s friend, Bethlehem senior QuiJanae Frazier agrees. She also said she is concerned the magnetic locks could cause damage. “Apparently, there’s a risk. So, if you try opening it yourself it could delete your phone data and stuff. That’s what I’ve heard from some people,” she said.

Katherine Panayotov, an Education Partnerships Manager with Yondr, the company that makes the pouches, told Anya that when used correctly, the pouch will never damage a phone. “That goes for phones, as well as smart watches, or AirPods that might also go into the pouch for the day,” said Panayotov.

But what about safety during an emergency or threat? Panayotov pointed to an individual school district’s safety protocol. “I think the way we approach our program when implementing it in any school, is to reinforce the safety protocols and precautions that schools have set up.” She told Anya that the bags can also be cut open if needed.

A district spokesperson tells News10 that the cost for the 2023-24 school year is $26,773 for 1400 pouches and that this includes staff training, locking stations and upgrades. They have upcoming informational meetings regarding the program scheduled next week.