Home>Articles>LAUSD Votes For District-Wide Student Cell Phone Ban During School Hours

Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education. (Photo: LAUSD)

LAUSD Votes For District-Wide Student Cell Phone Ban During School Hours

Ban passes in 5-2 vote

By Evan Symon, June 19, 2024 2:45 am

As the Los Angeles Unified School District prepped for vote on Monday to ban cell phones during school hours, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy called for a tobacco-style warning label to be put on all social media platforms, as they said that social media can now be harmful to teenagers mental health.

With both local and national pressure raining down on him, California Governor Gavin Newsom quickly changed course and followed suit on Tuesday morning, saying that he now wanted a statewide restriction on students cell phone usage during the school day.

In a 5-2 vote on Tuesday, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) approved a district-wide cell phone ban during school hours, an is due to come into effect in early 2025.

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. 72% of all high school teachers in the country have even called cell phones being used in class a major problem in the class room.

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. And, on Monday and Tues, everything came quickly to a head, with both national and statewide cell phone and social media limit propositions coming in.

Newsom Jumps on the Band Wagon

“As the Surgeon General affirmed, social media is harming the mental health of our youth,” said Newsom on Tuesday. “I look forward to working with the Legislature to restrict the use of smartphones during the school day. When children and teens are in school, they should be focused on their studies — not their screens.”

With federal and state support coming in within a matter of hours, the LAUSD board vote on the restriction was held. While the three co-signers of the resolution – Melvoin, LAUSD board President Jackie Goldberg and board member Tanya Ortiz Franklin – only needed one more Board member to side with them, they received two, with the resolution passing 5-2.

“Kids no longer have the opportunity to just be kids,” said Melvoin after the vote. “I’m hoping this resolution will help students not only focus in class, but also give them a chance to interact and engage more with each other – and just be kids. I think we’re going to be on the vanguard here, and students and this entire city and country are going to benefit as a result.”

Only board members George McKenna and Scott Schmerelson voting against the measure, citing issues with the resolution that it would be too restrictive, would have enforcement issues, and what the ban policy would be during times of lunch and breaks when students are “off the clock” at school.

“I think it’s going to be a full-time job being the police of the phone,” explained Schmerelson.
However, the ban isn’t up just yet. A final vote on the policy is to come in October after details, such as how students phones will be kept from them during the day, are finalized. Once voted there, the policy is expected to come into effect in January 2025.
“This has been a long time coming,” noted Cynthia Ramos, a parent-teacher group leader a an LAUSD middle school, to the Globe on Tuesday. “We got messages from parents and teachers all day just celebrating this. The kids are not happy about this at all. At first they didn’t want a Tik Tok ban, now this. But we have to put education first, and the way things are now, this sort of thing was the best way.
“Besides kids and a few parents who are still trying to say that kids should have them for emergencies, everyone is excited over this. Schools are going to be schools again. You can bet in January and February it will be a bit chaotic as all the kinks are worked out. You know some students will not give them up at the door. Some are, for a lack of a better word, addicted. But it will be routine as putting a jacket in a locker or getting breakfast in the cafeteria in the morning. Just another thing to do. And, we’re not idiots, we will expect backlash from students on this, and many will find ways to sneak them in. And that leads to bigger punishments, so it will be a whole thing for the rest of the year and next year as it works out.
“But, with this vote, we’re on our way to something better.”
The ban is expected to go into effect on January 1, 2025.
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Evan Symon
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