TDSB considering new policy limiting student cellphone use in classrooms

Click to play video: 'Toronto school board considers banning mobile phones'
Toronto school board considers banning mobile phones
WATCH: The Toronto District School Board is considering changes that could see students prohibited from using their mobile phones at school. As Sean O’Shea reports, the province’s education minister is in favour of reducing distractions. – Jan 17, 2024

Mobile phones in classrooms could soon become a thing of the past if a motion from Toronto District School Board (TDSB) trustees calling for an updated policy on cellphone use in schools is approved.

The motion, which is being debated on Wednesday by the TDSB’s Governance and Policy Committee, was brought forward by Ward 11 Don Valley West Trustee Rachel Chernos Lin and Ward 15 Toronto-Danforth Trustee Sara Ehrhardt.

“What we have isn’t working,” said Chernos Lin in a post on X this week, adding that she wants to create a new cellphone policy “that has teeth.”

She said cellphone use during class time “is probably one of the most significant concerns I hear about from parents and teachers.”

If the motion masses, she said the creation of the new policy will involve consultations and a review of best practices in other jurisdictions.

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In 2007 the board banned cellphones but brought them back a few years later over concerns that some students without laptops couldn’t access the internet.

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Five years ago, a province-wide Ministry of Education cellphone policy came into effect, which was intended to restrict use of personal mobile devices during class time.

Under the restrictions, students could only use personal mobile devices during instructional time if it is for educational purposes under an educator’s instructions, for health or medical purposes or for special needs.

However, Chernos Lin told Global News that now there isn’t a clear policy in place.

“We don’t have a big blanket kind of document,” she said.

Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce says he is in favour of reducing distractions in Ontario classrooms.

“I welcome school boards building upon the province’s actions to limit the use of cellphones in class,” he told Global News in an interview.

“The province and school boards working together should be taking further action to remove this distraction from schools so kids can get back to the basics of reading, writing and math,” Lecce said.

While there is no change on the horizon just yet, the trustees are now in discussions on whether or not there should be a new policy.

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But if the motion passes and parents are worried about reaching students during school hours, the board chair says that will still be possible.

“We still have landlines… we still have offices. And if you ever need to reach your child or your child needs to reach you, we can always make that happen in a school.”

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