States Consider Implementing School Cell Phone Bans above District Policies

School teachers are adopting innovative methods to control the use of mobile phones by their students in classrooms. Some students are mandated to keep their phones in lockers, while others are using pouches that restrict access until the end of the day. Additionally, there are instances where students are expected to follow the honor system.

While educators have long been grappling with maintaining students’ attention, certain policymakers are now starting to address this issue. Three states have recently enacted laws that either prohibit or limit the use of cell phones in schools. Florida took the lead in 2023 by implementing such regulations.

Cell phone restrictions vary across institutions: Some schools allow phone usage during designated times like lunch or between classes, while others completely prohibit the use of phones within school premises.

This is how different states are approaching the issue of cell phone bans in schools:

States that have implemented cell phone bans

During the 2021-2022 academic year, over 75% of K-12 public schools have enforced bans on cell phone use, as reported by the National Center for Education Statistics.

In 2024, Florida led the way as the first state to mandate a ban on cell phone use in public schools. Legislators in at least eight states have also considered enacting similar laws during the same year.

Earlier this year, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb signed a bill requiring school districts to restrict cell phone usage during instructional hours. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine followed suit in May by signing a comparable bill that mandates every school district to establish official policies regarding cell phone use during school hours.

Similar legislation has been introduced in Oklahoma, Washington, Kansas, Vermont, and Connecticut.

Students Distracted by Cell Phones Throughout the School Day

Kris Hagel, the Chief Information Officer at Peninsula School District in Washington state, oversees 17 schools with approximately 8,700 students. Hagel mentioned that there were numerous complaints about students being distracted by their phones from parents, principals, teachers, and even peers.

“In every classroom we visited, the students were not paying attention to the teachers. They were engrossed in their phones, causing distractions. Even if they were not actively on their phones, constant notifications were disrupting the learning environment,” Hagel commented.

Last academic year, the district implemented restrictions on phone usage in classrooms, resulting in noticeable improvements in student engagement levels.

According to previous reports by USA TODAY, an analysis conducted by Common Sense Media revealed that a small group of adolescents received nearly 240 cellphone notifications throughout the day, with a quarter of them occurring during school hours.

Cell phones are distracting individuals of various age groups: Stateline reported findings from a survey conducted on college students across 37 states and Alberta, Canada, indicating that on average, respondents spent 19% of their class time engaged with a smart device for non-academic purposes.

Schools are increasingly inclined towards restricting cell phones: Could this be the ultimate solution?

Students’ Reactions to Cell Phone Bans

Supporters of phone-free schools argue that academic achievement and students’ well-being are positively impacted by such measures.

However, concerns about school safety have been raised by parents. Some administrators believe that implementing a uniform ban on phones may not be the most effective policy.

“Phones have become an integral part of our daily lives,” Shahad Mohieldin, a program coordinator at the Young Women’s Project, expressed to USA TODAY. Mohieldin initiated a petition challenging the ban on cell phones in several D.C. schools. “While I understand that they can be distracting, students use their phones for various purposes, including educational ones like calculations, listening to music for focus, or even seeking counseling during school hours.” 

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