[Fox News] State Lawmakers Push for Ban on Phones in Schools

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The use of cell phones in schools has sparked considerable debate among educators and policymakers nationwide.

Florida and Indiana have passed laws requiring public schools to ban students from using their cell phones during class. In Oklahoma, Washington, Kansas, Vermont, Connecticut, Virginia and South Carolina, lawmakers have introduced bills to restrict phones in school this year. Georgia’s lawmakers introduced legislation that would restrict student’s use of social media while at school. In January, Utah Republican Gov. Spencer Cox sent a letter to school leaders across the state urging them to ban cellphones in class. 

In Minnesota, lawmakers passed an education bill that includes a requirement that school districts create a phone policy. The Minnesota Elementary School Principals Association and the Minnesota Association of Secondary School Principals “must collaborate to make the best practices available to schools on a range of different strategies in order to minimize the impact of cell phones on student behavior, mental health and academic attainment.” The guidance was a part of an education policy bill.

Two Rivers High School in Mendota Heights, Minnesota is ahead of the curve. The school started working with non-profit LiveMore ScreenLess in 2022. They held focus groups with students and teachers and engaged with parents and school leadership. After these conversations, the school implemented their new phone policy. Students can use their phones during lunch but must have them off during class or it will be confiscated. 

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After the implementation in 2023, some teachers at the Two Rivers say it’s been a success. “I definitely saw a difference in my students this year, and it was far more enjoyable to teach when students did not have the distraction of the phone,” one teacher said. 

Katherine Myers is the executive director at LiveMore ScreenLess. A former teacher herself, Myers realized cellphones in schools were becoming the “Wild West.” The nonprofit trains teachers and school employees about digital wellbeing. 

“Adults are really quick to tell students how bad their devices are. And that’s a truth but what we forget is all of those benefits,” Myers said. “As a community, we’re all trying to support a bigger goal of balanced intentional use of technology.”

LiveMore ScreenLess has helped create digital wellbeing clubs at schools across Minneapolis. Two Rivers High School junior Evangeline Fuentes joined her school’s club. The club meets monthly to discuss topics related to promoting a healthy relationship with technology and digital devices. 

“A phone isn’t all bad, but you can go on Instagram and you can scroll through reels and you can laugh or you can find inspirational things or like things that you want to buy, things you want to bake,” Fuentes said.

Fuentes knows she doesn’t have the best self-control when it comes to her cell phone. 

“I have Snapchat and I have Instagram. I delete it periodically. I feel like every girl or even guy like notice that it’s kind of hard to compare, or whatnot and just like see like a constant feed or like, oh, someone’s on vacation. Someone’s not,” Fuentes said. 

When her high school implemented the new phone policy, she watched her screen time go down. 

“First day of school, we went over a new phone policy and your phone is not allowed to be out from bell to bell,” Fuentes said. “I was focused. I wasn’t on my phone.”

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If the phone is out in class, it goes to a cell phone jail. 

“It’s good to talk to people and not have like the pressure of like being on your phone,” Fuentes said about the new phone restrictions. “It was more genuine connections I would say.”

Across the metro at Maple Grove Middle School, it’s much stricter. Principal Patrick Smith said before their cell phone policy was put into place, kids would leave class to make TikToks and send texts to start fights in the hallway. 

“We see the phone, we take it,” Smith said. “When I first launched it, I said leave the phones at home.”

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But Smith ran into pushback from parents. 

“Their biggest concern was we live in a very different time right now,” Smith said. “As a parent, I have two teenagers myself. You want to know that they’re safe at all times. And if there were ever any major emergency, parents want to get a hold of their child, and they want to know that they’re safe.”

Smith says they saw an instant change in the overall happiness of students and staff. Teachers no longer had to argue with students to put their phones away. 

“Failure rates have gone down noticeably,” Smith said. 

Some schools across the country require students to lock their phones away in a pouch. National Parents Union Minnesota State Director Khulia Pringle says she doesn’t think that’s the answer. 

“I would myself organize to make sure that doesn’t happen,” Pringle said. 

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Pringle represents thousands of parents in the state of Minnesota. She says parents are more concerned about kids using their phones on social media or to record fights. While parents want schools to limit phone usage, they don’t want them to get rid of them entirely due to safety reasons. 

“God rest the souls of those who were involved in mass shootings. But a lot of those kids were able to call them and let them know either they were okay or not okay,” Pringle said. 

She says cell phone policies are important, but she is more worried about student literacy, discipline issues and racial incident protocols.

In Minnesota, school districts have until March 2025 to come up with a phone policy. 

“Leaders are really waiting to find out who’s doing what,” Myers of LiveMore ScreenLess said. 

The National Education Association says they recently did a cell phone and social media survey of all of their members, and will release their recommendations for schools in July. 

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