Schools in one state might get big incentives to ban cellphones

Oklahoma districts with an average daily attendance of 1,500 students or more would get an extra $1 million in state funding, under a new proposal.

Schools in Oklahoma may soon be in line for additional funding and state grants if they are willing to ban cellphones from classrooms. State legislators have recently introduced bills that would create pilot programs to incentivize district leaders to eliminate the distractions that many believe are created by students’ pocket-sized screens.

Restricting cellphones would also limit “the damaging effects of cellphone use on students’ mental health and wellbeing,” Republican State Sen. Ally Seifried said in a statement on 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.”

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Seifried’s measure, Senate Bill 1321, would provide grants to an initial group of middle and high schools to cover the costs of going cellphone-free.

“Schools who have implemented these policies have seen discipline instances reduced, with bullying and anxiety decreased as well,” she added. “The beauty of this pilot program is it is voluntary and allows schools the flexibility to adopt the policies as they see fit based on their unique sites.”

A companion bill has been introduced in Oklahoma’s House of Representatives.

State Sen. Adam Pugh, also a Republican, last year offered SB 1314, which would increase state funding to districts that ban cellphones from their school campuses. Districts with an average daily attendance of 1,500 students or more would get an extra $1 million while smaller school systems would receive $500,000 or $100,000, depending on enrollment.

To qualify, districts would have to submit their cellphone policies to the state’s Department of Education, which would also conduct unannounced inspections after awarding the funds.

Claremore Public School banned cellphones at its junior high school as of the beginning of the school year. Students who bring phones to school must keep them in their lockers throughout the instructional day.

“This decision comes in response to a genuine concern for the well-being of our students and our commitment to fostering a safe, focused, and respectful learning environment,” the district said in a statement.

Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick is 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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