Classroom Cellphone Ban to be Introduced by Ontario Government

Ruben Fields
March 14, 2019

Earlier that day, Ontario Education Minister Lisa Thompson confirmed the province is planning to ban cellphones in elementary and secondary school classrooms in September.

Thompson says that the government will be reasonable and there will be some exceptions, in that students would still be allowed to have a cell phone if it is for health and medical purposes, and teachers will be able to allow cellphone use for classroom work if they see fit.

The ban follows government conducted education consultations previous year, in which 97 per cent of respondents stated they favoured restrictions on phones in class. "We will be making a formal announcement in the near future".

While Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner agrees that cellphones can be a distraction, he is critical of what he describes as the government's "top-down regulation" approach.

A number of schools already have similar policies in place, including Limestone District School Board in Kingston.

For example, in Canada's capital, the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board has an Appropriate Use of Technology policy.

About 97 per cent of respondents favoured some sort of restriction on phones in class, sources told the Canadian Press.

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Doug Ford's Tories proposed the ban during last year's election campaign.

In France, students are now forbidden from using their phones in the classroom or even during breaks.

"Students need to be discerning digital citizens and opportunities should be provided within the curriculum to allow students to safely explore various uses and risks of technology in an intentionally guided and supportive environment", the association wrote.

In 2015, NY ended its ban on cellphones, giving schools the authority to create their own, in part because parents wanted to be able to contact their children, and it was not equally enforceable.

The provincial government is set to ban cell phones from classrooms - and many students in Windsor-Essex are not impressed.

"We've always maintained that a student using their own personal devices is good for learning as long as it's not distracting them from their learning and under the guidance of the teacher or staff member in that room", says John Howitt, superintendent of education at GECDSB.

Cellphones, she said, are often used in classrooms to gauge student readiness, for educational purposes, including taking photos for presentations, and to assist students with learning needs. These improvements were mostly demonstrated among the students who were typically "low achieving".

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