EDUCATION & SCHOOLS
How a Utah bill would put cell phones, smart devices on hold in the classroom
SALT LAKE CITY — Utah could soon be the first state with a law restricting cell phone and smart watches on students in K-12 classrooms.
“I first came up with the idea because my daughter’s school, it’s getting so bad where kids will put their headphones in and just tune out the entire time. This will eliminate that.” said Rep. Trevor Lee, R-Layton, the sponsor of HB270. “I’ve had elementary school teachers reach out that say, ‘Hey, I’ve got parents calling kids during school or texting them.’ Well, this eliminates that.”
HB270: School Cellphone Usage Amendments would require students to leave their cell phones and smart watches with cell service in a designated location within the classroom. Elementary students would retrieve them at the end of the day. Middle and high school students would retrieve them at the end of each class period.
Lawmakers and educators seem to like Lee’s bill. If passed, the proposals could take effect in the 2023-2024 school year.
“There are the psychological effects of having a phone on you, even if it’s off, not only being a distraction but having the ghost texts and ghost calls,” Lee said.
His goal with the bill is to “eliminate that and help children learn to go without a phone on them for at least a period of the day.”
Too many texts: Cellphone experiment shows impact on learning
HB270 would allow students to keep their devices if deemed medically necessary, and to retrieve the device if “necessary to respond to an imminent threat to the health or safety of an individual.”
Many districts in the state already have some sort of cell phone policy. Cyprus High School in Magna has a no-phone policy in the classroom.
While students are allowed to use their phones outside of class, “when you’re in the classroom, it needs to be put away, and if a teacher sees you with it, a teacher takes it away,” said Quentin Meza, a senior at Cyprus High School.
Cyprus High School implemented its electronics use policy five years ago. Students and parents sign off on it at the beginning of each school year and there are consequences for those who violate it. On a first offense, the device is held in the office until the end of the day. After a second offense, a parent or guardian has to come to the school to pick it up. A third offense would require the student and parents meet with an administrator to discuss further action.
“It’s always going to be hard to start a new policy, right? So, there was a little more push back at the very beginning. But where we are now, it’s just part of our school culture,” said Robin Tenbrink, assistant principal of Cyprus High School.
Meza said he had his cell phone taken away his first year at Cyprus — but since then, he’s followed the policy. He said he now understands the negative impact it can have on his schoolwork.
“I feel like it’s good for me, and sometimes, I may get a little bit frustrated, I just want to pull out my phone for a minute, but overall, it’s helped me stay focused and get my work done and listen to the teacher and just take in what they have to offer,” Meza said.
“It helps to set boundaries and know when they can use their cell phone and when it’s not an appropriate time to use their cell phone. It helps them learn those skills,” Tenbrink said.
Safety feature or distraction? Debate over kid-tracking watches in the classroom
Cyprus’ electronic use policy differs from HB270 in that students can keep their cell phones in a pocket or in their backpack. If HB270 passes, Tenbrink said she doesn’t see an issue adjusting the school’s policy to collect the devices. Her advice to schools without a current policy is to make sure all teachers and staff adhere to it and that there aren’t variations of the policy in different classrooms.
“That’s really important — to make sure it is school wide and that everyone understands it and is on board with it,” Tenbrink said.
KSL TV wanted to know how parents feel about a statewide cell phone policy. Parents waiting to pick up their students at Glendale Middle School in Salt Lake City were overwhelmingly in favor of the idea.
“I think it’s great. I think it takes away distraction and unnecessary checking in with friends or thinking they need to tend to social media. I’m all for it,” said Courtney McMullin.
“I totally agree with that, they shouldn’t have it in the classroom. I really don’t believe younger kids should have phones anyway,” said January Ewert. “The only concern is if there is an emergency, they can check their phone and it will be there, and when it’s their time to use it, then they can use it. So yeah, I totally agree with it.”
“I know the phones can help them a little bit doing some of their schoolwork, but I’m old time, and teachers taught us without cell phones 40 years ago and we turned out OK,” said Dennis Olsen, who was picking up his grandchild.
HB270 would “require a local education agency (LEA) to enforce the provisions of this bill, in the manner determined by the LEA.”
Lee said he understands the concern teachers may have about the burden of enforcement.
“They feel like this is giving them more to have to enforce, but once again, I am hoping to eliminate that and let school districts come up with policies to enforce this so that teachers don’t feel like they don’t have anyone backing them up,” Lee said.
HB270 is currently being discussed in the House Education Committee and has a fiscal note of “$15 per classroom to $15 per device to store and maintain student electronic devices.”
Lee hopes it’s a small price to pay to help Utah students focus on their education while in the classroom.
“We put a lot of money towards education, and to just have them go to school and tune out on the phones or just sit on social media, or other issues they’re having — I’d like to get rid of that and go back to social interactions, which kids learn best that way and just learning how to focus,” Lee said.
KSL 5 TV Live
- First temple in Virginia opens its doors to the public (pageviews: 14346)
- Man in custody, accused of filming children in the bathroom of his business (pageviews: 14172)
- Utah man bit by shark while swimming in Hawaii (pageviews: 11996)
- Important dates, rendering released for 3 Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint temples (pageviews: 11993)
- 6-year-old boy dies after being ejected during rollover crash (pageviews: 10759)
- 3 killed in head-on crash in Kane County (pageviews: 9599)