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Ontario-wide cellphone restrictions in classrooms now in effect

WATCH ABOVE: Ontario’s Education Minister Stephen Lecce announced a new school policy that will see cellphones restricted in Ontario classrooms, with some exceptions, starting this November. Matthew Bingley has more. (Aug. 29)

There will be new restrictions on the use of cellphones and mobile devices in Ontario classrooms as of Monday.

According to a directive by the Ontario government, students can 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.

On Sunday, Education Minister Stephen Lecce released a short statement to the media ahead of the restrictions coming into effect.

READ MORE: Cellphone ban to take effect for students in Ontario classrooms by November 2019

“Our government heard clearly from parents and educators about the growing challenge related to distracted students in the classroom. When in class, students should be focused on their studies and not on social media,” he wrote.

“The cellphone restrictions coming into force on Monday is another step forward in providing a focused and academically-enriched learning environment for our students.”

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The government said 97 per cent of students, parents and teachers who participated in last year’s consultations called for cellphone use should be restricted.

Some schools already have similar policies, but the directive sets a provincial standard.

READ MORE: Ontario to ban cellphones from classrooms next year

The Progressive Conservatives had proposed such a ban in their platform during the 2018 election campaign. The Ministry of Education says exceptions will be made “for health and medical purposes, to support special education needs, or for educational purposes as directed by an educator.”

The Toronto District School Board used to have a cellphone ban, but reversed it after four years to let teachers dictate what works best for their classrooms. The board has previously said that enforcing an outright ban was next to impossible, and said that to curb technology use would be to place limits on educational opportunities as well.

“At the TDSB, we encourage the use of technology in the classroom but for educational purposes only,” TDSB spokesperson Ryan Bird told Global News in a statement Sunday afternoon.

READ MORE: The risks and rewards of imposing a cellphone ban in Alberta classrooms

“Recent changes to the board code of conduct to address the direction of the Ministry of Education with regards cellphones essentially formalizes what schools in the TDSB have already been doing — using cellphones where appropriate to the lesson or topic at hand.”

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A 2015 London School of Economics and Political Science paper found that “student performance in high stakes exams significantly increases” with a ban on mobile phones. The improvements were largely seen among the students who were normally the lowest achieving.”

— With files from the Canadian Press