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Orange County (Florida) school board approves ban on student cellphone use during school day

Aug. 2, 2023
The policy states that students' phones must be silent and in backpacks or purses all day, including lunch periods.

When classes resume next week, students in Orange County (Florida) Public Schools will not be able to use cellphones any time during the school day, even at lunch.

The Orlando Sentinel reports that a revised school board policy states that students’ phones must be silent and in backpacks or purses from the first to the final bell of the day.

The policy is an effort to curb discipline problems, limit distractions in class and encourage in-person communication in the cafeteria.

Superintendent Maria Vazquez said that during the first several weeks of school, administrators will not impose consequences for phone violations as they work to make sure students understand the new rules. But discipline — including having the phone confiscated until the end of the school day — will be imposed starting in September.

The policy includes exceptions for students who need to use phones because of a medical condition or disability. For now, Apple Watches and similar devices are banned, too, though the school board may revisit allowing them.

Cellphone use in class has long been frowned upon, but a ban on phone use in school cafeterias will be a big change for many students.

Board members said cellphones disrupt classes and fuel bad behavior; curbing their use could help tamp down problems.

Board member Maria Salamanca, whose district includes the Lake Nona area, said she knows students will be unhappy with the lunchtime ban. But she is convinced that the new policy could reduce problems because students will not be able to so quickly share threats, details about planned fights or other troublesome messages and videos via their phones.

Some board members cautioned that enforcing the new rules could become a time-sucking requirement on a teacher's workday.

“I’m willing to try it,” said board member Angie Gallo. “I just want to ensure we’re monitoring how it goes” and that the board is willing to “dial it back, pull it back, if we find it’s not doable.”

A task force recommended a districtwide cellphone ban and that the district make sure discipline rules are consistently enforced across its more than 200 schools. 

About the Author

Mike Kennedy | Senior Editor

Mike Kennedy, senior editor, has written for AS&U on a wide range of educational issues since 1999.

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