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Bill Proposes Investigating Mental and Academic Impact of Cellphone Use on Students in Classrooms

Senate lawmakers from both parties have introduced a bill that calls for the U.S. Department of Education to conduct a study on the effects of cellphone use in K-12 classrooms on students’ mental health and academic performance.

Since the pandemic led to a decline in learning, lawmakers believe it is urgent to officially examine the impact of cellphones on students.

Sen. Tim Kaine, a Virginia Democrat and member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, emphasized the need to address cellphone use in schools and its impact on students’ mental health and learning. He stated that the bill would gather information to assist schools in managing students’ cellphone use and ensuring their success.

Sen. Tom Cotton, an Arkansas Republican and a co-sponsor of the bill, described widespread cellphone use in schools as a distraction at best, and at worst, a means of exposing students to harmful and addictive content. The proposed legislation allocates $5 million annually for the next five years to fund the study, including establishing a pilot program that provides schools with secure containers for students to store their phones during school hours.

The Education Department will seek input from parents, students, and educators to select pilot programs. The program will allow exceptions for students with health conditions, disabilities, and non-English speakers. Additionally, schools participating in the pilot program will have access to a communication system enabling contact with local emergency responders.

Concerns over the negative impact of cellphone use in schools have prompted various districts to implement protocols to keep student cellphones out of the classrooms. For example, six public schools in Richmond plan to start a new semester with a no-cellphone policy, requiring students to lock their phones in magnetic pouches during school hours.

Teachers are reportedly supportive of the cellphone ban, with a survey showing that 97% of school staff acknowledge cellphone use as an issue, and 86% believe the no-phone policy would be beneficial.

The Cape Girardeau, Missouri, school board also voted to restrict cellphones in the district, similar to the protocols adopted in Richmond schools. Florida has passed a law requiring public school districts to prohibit student cellphone use during class time, with some districts implementing more stringent policies that ban cellphone use throughout the day.

However, some caution against completely prohibiting cellphone use during the school day, as it may leave students and parents unaware of potential problems in public schools. For example, during the pandemic, parents were able to observe the curriculum their children were being taught while schools were exclusively online.

Wichita High School parent Steve Curbelo mentioned that cellphones are sometimes used to record videos of school fights, which are later uploaded to social media. He emphasized the importance of parents being aware of such incidents and being able to take action.

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