Washington, DC schools discuss state’s move to restrict cell phones in classrooms | WJHL
Washington, DC schools discuss state’s move to restrict cell phones in classrooms | WJHL

Faith Little and Jayonna Scurry

9 mins ago

ABINGDON, Va. (WJHL) – The state of Virginia wants to limit cell phone use in schools because students may be spending too much time in front of screens.

Governor Youngkin signed an executive order Monday implementing cellphone-free classrooms in all Virginia public schools. News Channel 11 spoke with Washington County, Virginia Public Schools about the upcoming change.

“There’s a lot of really scary data out there right now,” said county Supervisor Keith Perrigan. “That came out with the book ‘The Anxious Generation,’ which really links the decline in mental health among youth in America to their use of cell phones and the apps and social media opportunities that those cell phones provide.”

He and other leaders felt it would be best to look for ways to keep cell phones operational only during school hours for educational assistance. Perrigan said the school district will not ban cell phones entirely, but will continue to enforce and update its current restrictions on cell phones in schools.

“While mobile phones are very convenient and offer many benefits, for children, especially those who use them at too young an age when they are not yet mature enough to deal with everything that comes with them, it can have serious consequences for their mental health and sometimes, unfortunately, even their safety.”

Haley Viers, a teacher and mother from Washington County, said she has experienced firsthand the distraction caused by cell phones in the classroom.

“When they’re on their phone instead of doing their work, causing trouble between peers and on social media, etc.,” Viers said.

“It causes fights and bullying, cyberbullying. So it definitely has an impact on mental health.”

Viers said stronger enforcement at the state level will make it easier for teachers to enforce regulations at the district level.

“Even if there is a rule not to let them out during class time, the children will still try to sneak them out. So it is definitely helpful for a teacher to have the government support.”

Perrigan said his district will conduct a “pilot test” to see what is most effective, but students will be allowed to keep their devices.

“Students hand over their phones when they come to school, and we give them a magnetic bag (to lock them in). And then at the end of the day, we can unlock that magnet. That way, they keep their phone all day, but they don’t have access to it.”

Perrigan added that school administrators are also developing strategies on how best to enable students or schools to communicate with parents and guardians in the event of an emergency.

Washington County Public Schools will review the data on why and how the policy needs to be reviewed at its August board meeting.

“And then we can start asking some stakeholders to put forward ideas and suggestions on how we can change the policy and implement it effectively.”

Perrigan expects the district’s policy to change by November or December. Governor Youngkin wants the new statewide guidelines to go into effect by January 2025.

By Everly