HomeNewsLocalLAUSD Board Moves Forward with Possible Cell Phone, Social Media Ban

LAUSD Board Moves Forward with Possible Cell Phone, Social Media Ban

LOS ANGELES (CNS) – Calling it an effort to support student mental health and learning, the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education directed its staff Tuesday to develop policies prohibiting students’ use of cell phones and social media through the entire school day.

The board adopted the resolution on a 5-2 vote, with board members George McKenna and Scott Schmerelson voting no, raising questions about how such a ban would be enforced.

The vote does not automatically mean such a ban will be imposed. The resolution, introduced by board member Nick Melvoin, instructs district staff to consult with parents, students, labor representatives and other stakeholders and develop proposed policies that will have to return to the board in 120 days for another vote.

Melvoin’s resolution envisions enacting rules for cell phones by January 2025.

“Schools that have gone farther and already implemented a phone-free school day report incredible results — kids are happier, they’re talking to one another, their academics are up,” Melvoin said. “And so I really think this an idea whose time has come.”

Melvoin’s resolution also notes that a phone-use ban would combat cyberbullying and promote focus and concentration in classroom. The resolution cited research indicating the impacts of excessive cell phone use associated with increased stress, anxiety, depression, sleep issues, feelings of aggression, and suicidal thoughts in adolescents.

The resolution, which was co-sponsored by board members Jackie Goldberg and Tanya Ortiz Franklin, contends that students’ use of cell phones “can stifle meaningful in-person interaction and enable cyberbullying.”

“According to a report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 16% of U.S. high school students in 2021 said they had been bullied via text message or social media platforms over the previous year,” according to the resolution.

“… While headphones and earbuds are tools to promote focus and concentration in the classroom, students use them with their cell phones all day and may become reliant on them — stifling student interaction with their peers and limiting classroom engagement,” the resolution states.

Some board members asked staff to consider various issues that could arise from such a ban, including concerns already expressed by some parents about being unable to reach their children during emergencies.

Board member Rocio Rivas noted that during a campus emergency, such as a school lockdown, students often convey messages via cell phone to their parents to let them know they are safe. Not having that ability to connect quickly with students will likely lead to increased consternation among parents in emergency situations, she said.

The resolution, however, suggested that experts have indicated that the use of cell phones by students could potentially decrease school safety during certain emergencies, through the spread of misinformation or interfering with official communications and directions to students.

Schmerelson said he was concerned about enforcement of a ban, suggesting it could become “a full-time job” for principals to police students’ use of phones.

McKenna called it a civil right to have a cell phone and the ability to use it.

“If the school says, you can’t use it, I can hear a lawyer already saying, why not?” McKenna said.

Defending the policy, Melvoin said it was aimed addressing cell phone addiction in students and the fear of missing out, which makes them constantly check their devices.

“(Schools) have technology monitors in class and the idea with this policy is to ramp it up, update it and enforce it through things like cell phone lockers or pouches to really remove the responsibility from individual teachers,” he said.

According to the resolution, research has determined that eliminating cell phone and social media usage during the day has been shown to increase scores on standardized tests and final exams, gains that are “equivalent to an additional hour of instructional time per week.”

The resolution notes that Florida implemented rules in 2023 prohibiting student cell phone use during instructional time, and Oklahoma, Kansas, Vermont, Ohio, Louisiana and Pennsylvania are considering similar measures.

A bill pending in the California Legislature would require school districts to adopt measures prohibiting or limiting students’ use of phones while at schools.

It was not immediately clear how cell phone restrictions would be enforced at LAUSD schools. Potential options include providing lockers or pouches to keep devices inaccessible until they’re tapped against a magnetic device when exiting campus, assessing use of text/voice-only phones and smartwatches, and using technology to block access to social media platforms.

Melvoin accepted a friendly amendment to the resolution from Superintendent Alberto Carvalho asking that the district “formulate a legal strategy that contemplates but is not restricted to” possible legal action against social media platforms “that use algorithms designed to directly appeal and eventually develop addiction to such platforms.”

Several teachers and students also showed up to offer public comment in support of the resolution.

An eighth-grade teacher at Mulholland Middle School said every teacher she had spoken to was in favor of the ban.

“I’ve seen students become belligerent and defiant when having to depart from their phones for a mere 52 minutes,” she said.

Melvoin noted that the district’s existing policy on use of electronic devices, which has not been updated since 2011, restricts the use of “cellular phones, pagers, or any electronic signaling device by students on campus during normal school hours or school activities, excluding the students’ lunchtime or nutrition breaks.”

A student at Reseda High School and member of Melvoin’s youth advisory council, Neel Thakkar, spoke in support of the policy saying students were going to have huge push-back on the resolution, but it was necessary.

“This resolution highlights that (cell phone use) is a huge detriment not only to mental health but it’s a distraction from the learning materials that we need, that are vital to us having a successful future,” he said.

Eyekon Radio
Eyekon Radiohttp://eyekonradio.com
Southern California's hit radio from the streets. Playing local and mainstream music from yesterday, today, and tomorrow. We also have the best local talk radio and podcast shows!

Most Popular

Recent Comments