No phone zones: Statewide bans are emerging across K12

Indiana joins Florida with the only statewide bans but similar proposals are making their way through legislatures across the country even as many districts have implemented their own restrictions.

A new Indiana law requires public school districts to ban students from using cell phones and other personnel wireless devices during class time. Exceptions allow students to use the devices with a teacher’s permission and in the case of an emergency.

Indiana joins Florida as the only two states to enact such laws but similar proposals are making their way through legislatures across the country even as many districts have implemented their own restrictions. Ohio Republicans this week introduced a measure that would bar student access to cell phones and social media.

In sixth through 12th grade, Ohio schools would also have to teach students about the negative “social, emotional, and physical effects of social media.” Such instruction would cover misinformation, manipulation, privacy and links between addiction and social media, the bill says.

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“If an individual has a mobile phone in their hand, or a computer in their hand, they can find a way around anything,” the bill’s sponsor, State Rep. Tom Young, told the Ohio Capital Journal. “If the device isn’t in their hand, then there’s no access, right?”

Vermont lawmakers want to ban cell phones in the name of student mental health and safety. “Phone and social media use both inside and outside of school, required exposure to online and digital products in school, and the collection and misuse of student data, which perpetuates bias and discrimination, violates student civil rights by creating an unsafe, disruptive, and distracted learning environment for students,” the state’s proposed ban says.

“Electronic devices and the access such devices provide to social media and other applications contribute significantly to the youth mental health, and therefore public health, crisis,” the bill reads.

Schools in Oklahoma may soon be in line for additional funding and state grants if they are willing to ban cellphones from classrooms. Senate Bill 1321 would provide grants to an initial group of middle and high schools to cover the costs of going cellphone-free. Restricting cellphones would also limit “the damaging effects of cellphone use on students’ mental health and wellbeing,” said the bill’s sponsor, State Sen. Ally Seifried said of her proposal.

“This bill is the result of many conversations with teachers, administrators and parents who want their kids and students to be more engaged in the classroom,” Seifried said. “By limiting the distraction of cellphones at school, it will allow students to truly focus on their learning.”

Earlier this month, the Louisiana Senate approved a cell phone ban and passed it on to the state’s House of Representatives. If a student brings an “electronic telecommunication device” to school, it would have to be “stowed away for the duration of the instructional day.” The state is stepping in with a ban to provide cover for school administrators who may be reluctant to implement their own policies, the bill’s sponsor told fox8live.

Ban have been introduced in Kansas and Pennsylvania. Conversely, Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs vetoed a cell phone ban earlier this month, saying the legislation “establishes an unnecessary mandate for an issue schools are already addressing.”

Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick is the managing editor of District Administration and a life-long journalist. Prior to writing for District Administration he worked in daily news all over the country, from the NYC suburbs to the Rocky Mountains, Silicon Valley and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He's also in a band.

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