Ohio County Board of Education considers restricting cell phones in schools

WHEELING, W.Va. — The Ohio County Board of Education is considering a proposed policy that would restrict cell phone use in 6th to 12th grade classrooms.

According to the policy, students in grades 6-8 will not be allowed to use their cell phones throughout the school day. High school students in grades 9-12 will only have access to their mobile devices before school, in between classes and after school.

Ohio County Board of Education President David Croft said removing cell phones from classrooms will promote a healthier and more focused learning environment.

“We recognize that the students both in high school and in middle school are spending significant time, especially at the high school level, on their phones during instructional time and if they’re doing that, they can’t possibly be learning,” Croft said.

Similar cell phone bans have been approved in school districts nationwide. Ohio County Schools would be the first school system in West Virginia to enact such a ban.

Virginia became the latest state to restrict cell phones in schools statewide. Gov. Glenn Youngkin signed an executive order this week to direct his state’s education department, to come up with rules to make K-12 schools “phone-free.”

Last year, Florida became the first state to crack down on phones in schools. Indiana and Ohio passed their own laws this year. California is also considering the change.

Ohio County BOE Vice President Molly Aderholt said cell phone use in class can lead to distraction and mental-health issues linked to social media. She said it’s an issue they’ve wanted to tackle long before other school districts started looking at the change.

“A student who is not on their phone during class is obviously not paying attention to the teacher. It’s something that has been growing over the last couple years and we finally decided to take a step forward to do something about it,” she said.

Earlier this summer, the U.S. Surgeon General called for social media platforms to display health warnings similar to tobacco products. A Marshall University professor previously told MetroNews that limiting screen time can help reduce anxiety and bullying.

Students will be required to drop their phones in a bin before they enter a classroom.

“What we’re hoping to accomplish is have a bin or a holding area where students can check their phones in as they enter the classroom. They may not access them during class,” Croft explained.

Students who break the policy will have their cell phone confiscated and returned to them after school. A repeat offender will have their phone turned over to their parent or guardian.

Aderholt said a districtwide ban will help with enforcement.

“The uniformity of a policy makes a big difference,” she said. “It makes it easier for the teachers. If all the teachers have the same rules, then that’s easier for them.”

The policy will be sent to principals to review before the BOE votes on it. The policy will also be posted for general public comment.

The goal is to have the policy in place by the start of the 2024-2025 school year this fall.

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