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Doug Ford is Banning Cell Phones in Schools

Critics say that a blanket cell phone ban may be impossible to enforce, and also takes away a potentially powerful learning tool.

by Tamara Khandaker
Mar 12 2019, 4:54pm

Photo by Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail via The Canadian Press 

Doug Ford’s government will ban cell phones in classrooms starting next school year, fulfilling a campaign promise made last fall.

“Ontario’s students need to be able to focus on their learning, and not their cell phones,” said Lisa Thompson in a statement sent to VICE.

“Last fall, we launched the largest-ever consultation on education in the history of Ontario,” she continued. “During this consultation we heard that 97% of respondents support some form of a ban on cell phones.”

A formal announcement is expected soon. Starting in the 2019-2020 school year, cell phones won’t be allowed in class unless they’re required for educational purposes, health and medical purposes, or to support special needs.

“By banning cell phone use that distracts from learning, we are helping students to focus on acquiring the foundational skills they need like — reading, writing and math,” said Thompson.

Until 2009, phones were banned in class by most Ontario school boards, but since then, school boards have taken a variety of stances. The Toronto District School Board dropped its ban in 2011, and last summer, it also lifted its ban on Snapchat, Instagram and Netflix.

A 2015 London School of Economics study found that when high schools banned phones, academic performance improved, especially for low-performing students, with their exam scores going up by 14 percent.

But critics have pointed out that a blanket ban may be impossible to enforce, and banning them also takes away a potentially powerful learning tool.

In the United States, schools have been relaxing cell phone bans, according to a survey from the National Center for Education Statistics, which found that the percentage of public schools that banned phones dropped from nearly 91 percent in 2009 to 66 percent in 2015—mostly as a result of pressure from parents who want to reach their kids.

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