Cell phones would be banned in Wash. schools under new bill

Jan 30, 2024, 4:53 PM | Updated: Jan 31, 2024, 6:18 am

phones schools WA...

Numerous students' smartphones (Photo: Hauke-Christian Dittrich/Getty Images)

(Photo: Hauke-Christian Dittrich/Getty Images)

A bill was introduced in Olympia this week that would ban Washington students from using phones during the school day.

Some Washington public school districts have already executed a phone ban, including the Peninsula School District (PSD) in Gig Harbor earlier this month. Within the Reardan-Edwall School District in Eastern Washington, which banned phone use last year, students are only allowed to use phones during lunchtime and breaks from class.

“They shouldn’t be in the schools because … I can just imagine myself when I was that age in school,” Stefan Thale’n, a parent in Gig Harbor, told KOMO News. “I had a hard time enough without it.”

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The bill, House Bill 2018, is sponsored by Rep. Stephanie McClintock, R-Vancouver. Within the bill, a study from the London School of Economics was cited. The study claimed the “mere presence of a smartphone” by a neighboring student can lower test scores for a non-phone student by approximately 16%. (A PDF of the study can be viewed here.)

“The legislature further finds that mobile devices can increase harm to students’ mental health either by recording students without consent or through increased cyberbullying,” the bill read. “Washington students are still recovering from the massive effects of closures during the COVID-19 pandemic, including severe learning loss and troubling trends in student mental health. The legislature intends to combat these effects with safer and more engaging learning environments for students.

“While the U.S. and nations around the world consider restricting mobile devices for students, the Washington legislature intends to explore the best strategies to implement a phone-free school environment with more focus on academics, development of social skills, and students engaging with each other, through research and analysis of information collected from pilot schools,” the bill continued.

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Away For the Day, an initiative pushing to transform schools into cell phone-free spaces, stated, via a 2015 study, that high school students increased their test scores by 6.4% after their school banned cell phones. The organization claims 56% of middle schools in the U.S. allow students to carry their phones on them all day, while public middle schools are twice as likely to allow students to have their phones than private middle schools.

Away For the Day’s research also found that more than 80% of parents don’t want their kids using phones in school.

If passed, the mandate would be enforced by the 2027-28 school year.

Frank Sumrall is a content editor at MyNorthwest. You can read his stories here and you can email him here.

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