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Cell phones. (Photo: UCHealth.ca.gov)

LAUSD Vote Tuesday for District-Wide Student Cell Phone Ban

Policy will be effective January 2025 if successful

By Evan Symon, June 17, 2024 5:05 pm

The Los Angeles Unified School District is to vote on a district-wide school hours cell phone ban on Tuesday, with the policy coming into effect by January 2025 if successful.

For years, cell phones in schools have been a growing issue. While some districts have allowed cell phones to be allowed in school as long as they are turned off and not being used during class in case of emergencies or needed communication with parents, a growing number have been  putting in bans due to the number of problems that cell phones, specifically smart phones, bring. This includes cell phones being a major distraction, the phones being used to cheat, mental health issues associated with social media, poor school performance, and the safety issue being boomeranged around back at being negative because of cyberbullying and other similar issues.

As a result many states and districts have instituted school hour bans on using cell phones. Currently, 3 states have passed statewide bans of some sort, with more than a dozen others currently considering such bans. In addition, nearly 80% of school districts have some sort of ban or limitations of cell phone usage in place. California currently has a bill, AB 3216, in the state legislature that would “require the governing body of a school district, a county office of education, or a charter school to, by July 1, 2026, develop and adopt, and to update every 5 years, a policy to limit or prohibit the use by its pupils of smartphones while the pupils are at a school site or while the pupils are under the supervision and control of an employee or employees of that school district, county office of education, or charter school.”

With most school districts in Southern California already having bans of some sort in place, and a state law possibly coming into effect by 2026, the LAUSD has been one of the major holdouts until now. While the LAUSD does have a policy of prohibiting use of cell phones during class time and limits social media use at school to being only for educational purposes, it has been proven difficult, if not impossible, to enforce. This led LAUSD board member Nick Melvoin to propose a new resolution this year aimed at not only finally stopping during school cell phone usage, but to increase academic performance, improve grades, and improve the mental health of students as side benefits.

According to the resolution, the LAUSD would prohibit all cell phone and social media usage districtwide during the entire school day. Some approaches would be different based on age and device type, with methods of keeping them during the day to be decided later. Current proposals included magnetically locked pouches and  cellphone lockers. If approved, the district would then finalize details for a final vote by October, with the policy then going into effect by January 2025.

“It’s been something I’ve been thinking about for years as I’ve just walked around campuses and seen kids on their phones and in class with their AirPods in,” said Melvoin on Monday. “More kids are getting phones at younger ages. They’re bringing them to campus. And then I don’t remember as much phone-based drug sales. Or coordinating fights or some of the cyberbullying. Key evidence at confidential expulsion hearings sometimes includes students’ text messages.”

He also noted that “By removing personal smartphones and social media from the school day, we will help keep kids focused on the technology that supports education by insulating them from the distractions of technology that does not. A smartphone ban in LAUSD schools would come with challenges, particularly related to enforcement. But these are surmountable hurdles.”

The resolution itself needs 4 of the 7 members in favor of the resolution. Already three are already saying that they will vote in favor of resolution, with Melvoin and his two co-signers, LAUSD board President Jackie Goldberg and board member Tanya Ortiz Franklin, wanting the resolution to pass. The other four have otherwise given no indication. As for the parents and teachers, many feel that it is about time.

“We needed this policy since students began bringing cell phones into schools over 20 years ago,” explained Cynthia Ramos a parent-teacher group leader a an LAUSD middle school, to the Globe on Monday. “Teachers have been giving horror stories on this. My oldest, who is in high school, well his teachers flat out hate them, as they distract, distract, distract. Then parents get mad because their grades are so low and blame the teacher.

“There are some parents who say they need them for safety, but schools are very much prepared to send out emergency communications like a call for 911 almost instantaneously. Not only that, any family emergency can be brought through the school office. And if we go with the pouches or lock boxes, then the students get them back at the end of the day. So many other school districts have this happen to great success.

“Very basically is that we need this. We need this badly. And the school board seems to know this. I really hope we get those votes tomorrow. So do almost all teachers and parents. Not the students though haha.”

The LAUSD is to vote on the resolution on Tuesday.

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Evan Symon
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One thought on “LAUSD Vote Tuesday for District-Wide Student Cell Phone Ban

  1. I’m for it, but you have a school full of addicts, and it is unenforceable. There will be fights and beatdowns when teachers or administrators try to take phones. Without discipline to back it up, most teachers won’t enforce it.

    Cell phones are banned in prisons, too, but that doesn’t stop inmates or guards from smuggling them in. Whole criminal organizations are run from prison cell hones.

    With banks of computers in many classrooms, students will have access to most of their media through quick work arounds school district controls.

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