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Education

British Columbia won’t be following suit on Ontario’s ban on cellphone use in classrooms

WATCH: Should B.C. follow Ontario with school cell phone ban?

Students in B.C. classrooms are going to be able to keep their phones nearby. Education Minister Rob Fleming says the province has no plan on following Ontario’s province wide ban.

“We are not considering it at this time,” Fleming said. “We are going to leave that to school districts to decide the cellphone policies in schools. There are a number of schools have moved to ban cellphones during school hours.

“You would hear a lot of teachers that would say sometimes cellphones and tablets would be useful.”

READ MORE: Ontario to ban cellphones from classrooms next year

The Ontario government has decided to ban cellphones in classrooms during instructional time, starting in September.

In a statement Tuesday, Ontario Education Minister Lisa Thompson said that a formal announcement is coming soon.

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“Ontario’s students need to be able to focus on their learning — not their cellphones,” she wrote. “By banning cellphone use that distracts from learning, we are helping students to focus on acquiring the foundational skills they need like reading, writing and math.”

Some schools already have similar policies, but the province will issue a directive to all public schools for the 2019-20 school year, government sources told The Canadian Press. How to enforce the ban would be up to individual boards and schools.

READ MORE: Using cellphones and laptops in class brings down grades: study

Exceptions would be made for when teachers want to use cellphones as part of their lesson, for medical reasons and students with special needs.

In British Columbia, the power is in the hands of school districts and schools to implement restrictions or bans. Fleming says the districts should be granted the ability to try out their own rules.

“I don’t think the school districts welcome central edicts from the Minister of Education,” Fleming said.

“We will certainly be looking at Ontario. I have a kid at a school where they can’t use cellphones. Some kids like it, others don’t;  some teachers like it, others don’t.”

WATCH: Cell phones to be banned in Ontario classrooms

Cell phones to be banned in Ontario classrooms
Cell phones to be banned in Ontario classrooms
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The B.C. Teachers Federation does not have a specific policy or position on cell phones or tablets in classrooms.

“We do however believe strongly in professional autonomy and that each teacher has the skill set to decide what is right for their classroom,” the union wrote in a statement.

WATCH (aired May 15, 2017): Vancouver Island school will ban cellphones

Vancouver Island school will ban cellphones
Vancouver Island school will ban cellphones

Mediated Reality founder Jesse Miller says that teachers are cognizant of the students that have their devices and that there needs to be a balance in terms of use. Miller also agrees the schools should each have a say.

“I think we need more in terms of how kids use the technology as the progress through primary and secondary school,”Miller said.

“Unfortunately we have 10 years of good data of schools making the decisions and the issue is where can school have their autonomy.”

— With files from the Canadian Press

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