Bill Aims to Let Schools Ban Phones in Class

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By Lee Vides | Photo: Pixabay/Pexels
With technology as a significant part of our daily lives, some people seem to use their devices constantly, always keeping them close at hand. For students however, their accessibility during school hours is now up for debate as the subject of new legislation.
A new bill introduced in Sacramento would require California schools to adopt policies restricting or banning cell phones in schools in the hopes of decreasing their use during class time.

Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi, a Democrat representing the South Bay of Los Angeles, introduced Assembly Bill 272, saying that cell phones are a distraction and interfere with students’ learning. It would allow schools to determine their own phone policies. Some school districts in the state have already banned cell phones.

That they may draw too much of the students’ attention is not the only justification given for restricting the usage of phones at school.

The bill states: “There is growing evidence that unrestricted use of smartphones by pupils at elementary and secondary schools during the school day interferes with the educational mission of the schools, lowers pupil performance, particularly among low-achieving pupils, promotes cyberbullying, and contributes to an increase in teenage anxiety, depression, and suicide.”

Not everyone agrees, however, that phones are such a nuisance. While many teachers would surely welcome a decrease in distractions, other people argue that the devices are sometimes necessary.

“I’d say I need my phone in school,” Charles Robinson, a Richmond High senior, said. “Whenever the [school] laptops don’t work, I can use my phone. People need to message me. I need to check emails, or just in case of a family emergency.”

Having a phone isn’t always a matter of necessity for Robinson, who also says it gives him “something to do.”
While there are legitimate reasons for students to have their phones readily accessible to them at school, those don’t account for the only times they are used, which is how they can become a distraction.
Luis Chacon, a Richmond High teacher, says having phones in the classroom can have many negative effects, including a teacher not engaging enough with students, struggles with phone addiction, or a student constantly checking their phone because of something going on in his or her life.
He also thinks that educators such as himself need to be aware of what’s going with their students and consider they might have a good reason for being on their phones. “It’s important to look at the root cause of why the student is on their phone, as frustrating as it might be as a teacher,” Chacon said.
John Ohlmann, another Richmond High teacher, had a different view on the problem.

“In my opinion, whatever it is, you shouldn’t be using your cell phone in my class,” he said. “Call me old-fashioned. If I can wave a magic wand and all cell phones would disappear, I’d do it.”

Not all students would be likely to object if phones were indeed to vanish from class time. Some say they just don’t need to have them during most school days.

Brenda Aceves Limon, a Richmond High freshman, says if phones were banned, she would be more focused in school. She doesn’t think the ban would affect her much.
“I don’t need my phone at all times,” she said. “I only need it in school to call my parents.”

AB 272 passed the Assembly Education Committee in April, then passed the Appropriations Committee and Assembly floor. The bill now awaits a vote in the Senate.

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