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A US school district banned smartphones completely, and students are (mostly) OK with it
- In Florida, Orange County Public Schools banned smartphones completely.
- Teachers, students, and parents appear to support the policy mostly.
- However, students and parents think the daylong enforcement puts students at risk.
In May, Florida passed a law stating that school students need to be barred from using smartphones while in learning sessions. However, the law said nothing about smartphone use at school during non-learning times, such as lunch, recess, or free periods. Orange County Public Schools decided to go all-in, though, with all schools in the Florida district banning smartphones entirely all day.
Surprisingly, a piece in The New York Times highlighting the responses to this policy are pretty positive from teachers, parents, and even students. Teachers love that it keeps students focused, parents love that their kids are limiting their screen time, and even students love that it makes them feel more genuine, present, and engaged.
“Now people can’t really be like: ‘Oh, look at me on Instagram. This is who I am,'” said Peyton Stanley, a 12th grader at one of the high schools in the affected district. “It has helped people be who they are — instead of who they are online — in school.”
“Oh, I love [the policy],” said Nikita McCaskill, a teacher at the same school. “Students are more talkative and more collaborative.”
Enforcement of the smartphone ban is time-consuming, though. Somewhat comically, Lyle Lake, a school security officer, patrols lunch periods in a golf cart to catch students secretly using their phones. If seen, a student must ride with Lake to the main office, where they turn their phone in until the end of the day. “I usually end up with a cart full of students,” Lake said, “because I pick up more on the way to the office.”
Despite the positive reception to the ban, there are some safety and ethical concerns.
Parents and students worry about safety and ethics
The most significant backlash to the policy relates to safety. If a student needs to contact a parent or family member, they cannot do so on their phone without violating the ban. Their only option is to go to the main office and use a landline. With school shootings being an almost daily occurrence in the United States, this lack of accessible communication with the outside world puts parents and students in a state of unease.
Additionally, students recording phone footage of what’s happening at their school has a benefit for ensuring they are safe. There have been numerous news stories over the past few years of students recording events at school that exposed unsafe conditions that could then be addressed. This includes what teachers are saying and doing in the classroom, which is ever-evolving in Florida, in particular.
Finally, the policy does insinuate that students can’t be trusted to be responsible for their own actions, which doesn’t adequately prepare them for adult life. “They expect us to take responsibility for our own choices,” said Sophia Ferrara, a 12th grader who needs to use a smartphone during free periods to take online college classes. “But then they are taking away the ability for us to make a choice and to learn responsibility.”
What do you think? Should smartphones be completely banned from school? Let us know in the poll below.