How a Utah bill could put cell phones and smart devices on hold in the classroom

Salt Lake City – Utah may soon be the first state to have a law restricting the use of cell phones and smartwatches to students in K-12 classrooms.

“I first came up with the idea because my daughter’s school got so bad the kids would put their headphones on and set the whole time. This will eliminate that.” said Rep. Trevor Lee, R. Layton, HB270 sponsor. “I called elementary school teachers to say, ‘Hey, I have parents who call or text kids during school. Well, that cancels that out.

HB270: Mobile phone usage adjustments for school Students will be required to leave their mobile phones and smartwatches with cellular service in a specified location within the classroom. Elementary students will retrieve it at the end of the day. Middle and high school students will redeem them at the end of each semester.

Lawmakers and educators seem to love Bill Lee. If passed, the proposals could become effective in the 2023-2024 school year.

“There are psychological effects to having a phone with you, even if it’s off, not only being a distraction but having ghost texts and ghost calls,” he told me.

His goal with the bill is to “eliminate that and help kids learn not to use a phone with them for at least part of the day.”

Too much text: The mobile phone experience shows an impact on learning

The HB270 will allow students to keep their device if they deem it medically necessary, and retrieve the device if “it is necessary to respond to an imminent threat to an individual’s health or safety.”

Many areas in the state already have some type of cell phone policy. Cyprus High School Magna has a no phone policy in the classroom.

While students are allowed to use their phones outside the classroom, “when you’re in the classroom you have to put it away, and if the teacher sees you with it, the teacher takes it away,” said Quentin Mesa, a senior at Cyprus High School.

Cyprus High School has implemented its electronics use policy for five years. Students and parents sign it at the beginning of each school year and there are consequences for those who violate it. On the first offense, the device is kept in the office until the end of the day. After a second offense, the parent or guardian must come to the school to pick it up. The third offense requires that the student and parents meet with the administrator to discuss further action.

“It will always be difficult to start a new policy, right? So, there was a bit of a push back in the beginning. Where we are now is just part of our school culture,” said Robin Tenbrink, assistant principal of Cyprus High School.

Meza said he took his cell phone his first year in Cyprus — but since then, he’s followed that policy. He said he now understands the negative impact it can have on his homework.

“It feels good to me, and sometimes, I might get a little frustrated and just want to get my phone out for a minute, but overall, it’s helped me stay focused, get my work done, listen to the teacher, and just take what they have to offer,” Meza said.

“It helps to set boundaries and know when they can use their cell phones and when it is not an appropriate time to use their cell phones. It helps them learn those skills,” Tenbrink said.

Safety feature or distraction? Controversy over children’s tracking hours in class

Cyprus’ electronic use policy differs from the HB270 in that students may keep their mobile phones in a pocket or in their backpack. If the HB270 passes, Tenbrink said it sees no problem in adjusting the school’s policy for device pooling. Her advice to schools that do not have an existing policy is to make sure all teachers and staff adhere to it and that there are no differences in the policy in different classrooms.

“This is really important — to make sure it’s school-wide and that everyone understands and aligns with it,” Tenbrink said.

KSL Television wanted to know how parents feel about the statewide cell phone policy. Parents waiting to pick up their students at Glendale Middle School in Salt Lake City were overwhelmingly supportive of the idea.

“I think that’s cool. I think it removes the distraction and unnecessary checking in with friends or thinking they need to use social media. I’m all for it,” said Courtney McMullen.

“I totally agree with that, they shouldn’t be in the classroom. I really don’t think younger kids should have phones anyway,” said Jan Ewert. “The only concern is if there is an emergency, they can check their phones.” And it will be there, and when it’s time to use it, they can use it. So yeah, I totally agree with him.”

said Dennis Olsen, who was talking about a grandson.

HB270 will require a “Local Education Agency (LEA) to enforce the provisions of this Act, in such manner as the LEA may specify.”

Lee said he understood the concern teachers might have about the burden of law enforcement.

“They feel like it gives them more to have to enforce, but then again, I hope I’m going to rescind that and let school districts put in place policies to enforce this so that teachers don’t feel like they’re not supporting anyone,” he told me.

The HB270 is currently being discussed in the House Committee on Education and has a financial memorandum of “$15 per semester to $15 per device for storage and maintenance of student electronic devices.”

Lee hopes this is a small price to pay to help Utah students focus on their education while they are in the classroom.

“We’ve put a lot of money into education, to have them go to school and catch phone calls or just sit on social media, or the other issues they’re having — I’d like to take that out and go back to social interactions, that kids learn better that way and they just learn.” How to focus,” he told me.

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