May 20, 2024 - News

Ohio cracking down on cellphones in schools

An illustration of a pencil erasing a cell phone.

A new state law requires school districts to limit students' cell phone usage in schools, but local officials still have the final say.

Why it matters: The law is meant to curb distractions and keep kids focused in the classroom, Gov. Mike DeWine says.

  • The shift to "phone-based" childhoods is making our kids sick and miserable, argues one prominent social psychologist in a recent book investigating the recent surge in teen mental illness, an issue the governor referenced in his signing statement.

Driving the news: DeWine signed House Bill 250 last week, which mandates each district adopt policies to emphasize that cellphone usage "be as limited as possible during school hours."

  • It does not require a full prohibition on phones in schools, though districts can choose to go that route.

Zoom in: Three Columbus-area school districts surveyed by Axios already have cellphone policies in place.

  • The policies vary widely, ranging from blanket bans to classroom-by-classroom enforcement policies.
  • Columbus City Schools spokeswoman Jacqueline Bryant noted the district requires phones be stowed and turned off during the day, including lunch.

South-Western City School District is more forgiving, banning phone use in classes but allowing students to use them in hallways and at lunch.

  • Spokesperson Evan Debo said administrators are in the process of adopting a new policy that clarifies administrators can make exceptions to offer more access during special circumstances, such as if a family member is hospitalized.

Hilliard City Schools has the most lenient district policy of those shared with Axios. Teachers and staff can require students to stow phones, but their use is only prohibited if it causes disruption.

  • The policy states "staff will be the final judge of the appropriateness of the use of any electronic device."
  • "We await new or updated guidance from the Governor's office," district spokesperson Stacie Raterman told Axios.

Between the lines: School shootings and other security concerns have led to calls in favor of maintaining access to cellphones as an important source of peace of mind for parents.

  • Parents are often the ones demanding to be able to reach their kids during the school day.

The big picture: Some experts link the dramatic rise in adolescent mental health problems to smartphones and social media.

  • They're increasingly recommending physically separating children from their phones during school rather than just asking students to keep the devices off or silenced, Axios' Jennifer Kingston reports.
  • One increasingly popular solution is requiring students to stow devices in locked pouches that can only be opened at the end of the day.

📣 What do you think about the issue of cellphones in school?

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