Cellphones and K-12 students.

If you have a child in that age range that has a phone, you probably think it is welded to them.

The hold that these devices have on students today is well-documented, but teachers say that parents often do not realize the extent that their children use them inside the classroom.

More than three-quarters of U.S. K-12 public schools prohibit non-academic cellphone use, according to a report from the 2021-22 school year. And two Pennsylvania legislators want to take charge and put laws in place to ban phones during classes.

In January, Rep. Barb Gleim (R-Cumberland) introduced House Bill 2043, implementing a policy that prohibits students from possessing or using personal mobile devices during the school day. Her bill also requires public school entities to have a written policy that includes a process for students and parents to contact each other during the school day, if necessary.

“They’re playing solitaire on it, they’re playing games on it, and they’re using social media,” she said. “But they’re not actually using it for school. We got to get back to the basics where kids are coming in and getting down to business learning math, science, and reading without being distracted by a cell phone.”

Three months later, Sen. Ryan Aument (R-Lancaster) wants to introduce legislation to limit students’ use of cellphones in schools through secure, lockable phone bags in which students would deposit their mobile devices until the end of the school day.

“While it’s great that the Commonwealth dedicated an additional $100 million last year to schools to care for students’ mental health, that money won’t go very far unless we get at the root cause of the problem,” he said. “Because we know widespread access to smartphones and social media apps increases depression, anxiety, feelings of isolation, and even suicidal thoughts in teens and children, my bill is a commonsense approach to improve student mental health and academic performance alike.”

Last year, Florida became the first state to crack down on phones in school. A law that took effect in July requires all Florida public schools to ban student cellphone use during class time and block access to social media on district Wi-Fi. Some districts, including Orange County Public Schools, went further and banned phones the entire school day.

Indiana Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb just signed into law a bill that requires school districts to prohibit cellphone use during instructional time, with some exceptions. A similar bill is advancing in Oklahoma, and legislation has been introduced in Kansas and Vermont.

In response to Gleim’s bill, a spokesperson for the Pennsylvania School Boards Association issued a statement that read, “Student access to electronic devices is, and continues to be, an issue discussed by school leaders across the state. Our members strive to provide an educational environment that is orderly, safe and effective for learning … Our position is that locally elected school leaders are in the best position to make decisions related to student use of electronic devices during the school day.”

“We are expecting children to have the discipline to disconnect from social media and their phones, but most adults can’t even do that,” said Aument. “Instead of putting an adult responsibility on their shoulders, my bill would give them a break during school hours and the opportunity they deserve to learn without a constant distraction in their pockets.

“The data is clear – there is a direct causation, not just a correlation, between the rise of smartphones and the decline in mental health, social skills, and academic success of our kids, and they need us to be the adults and break the cycle for the sake of their future.”

Steve Ulrich is the managing editor of PoliticsPA.

This article was originally published in PoliticsPA.

5 thoughts on “State lawmakers introduce bill to limit cellphone use in schools”

  1. So instead of focusing on teacher shortages, underpaid teachers, dilapidated schools, and funding cuts. One state legislator is focused on cell phones and other is focused on having cursive taught in the classroom instead of advanced technology training. Which are nothing more than social issues.

    Teachers have plenty of options to reduce cell phone use during class if they chose to do so. If an employer enacted a similar policy with adults it would never succeed. Because cell phones have become an integral part of the work force, the same with students.

    1. Judah, social issues are not unimportant and as a high school teacher I can say that phones in the classrooms are more than a mere distraction, they are ruining education, wasting countless hours of instructional time and money, and should be banned in school for the following reasons:

      Kids are hooked on their phones and resist putting them aside, resulting in conflict with teachers and admin.
      When asked to put them away kids find ways to keep them on hand.
      Often there is no place to put phones since some schools do not allow bags or backpacks in the classroom.
      Teachers waste valuable instruction time dealing with phone issues.
      Administrators are constantly dealing with disciplinary issues regarding phones.
      Schools should not have to compete with movies, music, and porn that kids watch on their phones while in school
      Phones cannot be confiscated by the school since they are private property, so school rules are unenforceable.
      High school teachers have written more disciplinary referrals related to phones than to any other problem.
      Students constantly cheat by taking photos of tests, homework, and other assignments and passing those photos to others.
      Kids use the camera to bully other kids, post harassing photos to Instagram, and start fights.
      Phones (as well as chromebooks and laptops) are used to plagiarize research assignments.
      Kids use phones to contact people outside of a classroom or outside of school to order lunch, buy drugs, have a quickie sex encounter, etc.

      So you think your young scholar would not misuse his/her phone in school? Think again. I’ve seen potential valedictorians ruined by phone issues. Solution? Parents – Don’t buy your teen or pre-teen a smart phone. Buy them a flip phone with no camera that they can use to text or make calls in case of an emergency. Schools – Insist that phones be left at home or at least in student lockers until after school activities when kids tend to need rides home. Any student needing to call a parent can do so using the school phone. Assign an “F” for the day to any student who brings a phone to class, especially during a quiz or test. Anyone who breaks the rules gets community service on Saturday, wearing an orange vest, picking up trash on the street. Hold the line and don’t back down. Will this ever happen? Not a chance!

      1. You’re right random person on the internet who claims to be a teacher. My wife Taylor Swift, read your post and agreed with you. There is no place for students to store cell phones in a classroom. Unless a teacher gets one of these and requires every student to place their cell phone into this; Google “Simple Houseware 24 Pockets – Crystal Clear Over The Door Hanging Shoe Organizer, Black (64” x 19”)”
        As for your claims of cheating and plagiarizing, its not as if it never happened before cell phones. Oh wait, it has. In college I knew that Fraternities and Sororities kept files on classes complete with tests and previous students notes.

        1. Kids placing phones in a designated basket is voluntary and cannot be enforced. Of course some kids will comply with no argument. Others will keep the phone on them anyway and do with it what they will. I don’t pretend to have a perfect solution. Human nature is what it is. Still, there is no denying that phones are a dreadful addition to schools and to kids in general. I’m no more random than you are BTW, since you don’t share your surname, and your name is every bit as nebulous as mine…LOL.

  2. I’m a teacher. My students have to store phones in a receptacle during class. If you ban phones, great. But what is the solution to the kids playing games and having Google chats with their friends on computers and Chromebooks the schools were sure were vital to modern education? If they still can do that it’s meaningless.

Leave a (Respectful) Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *