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No cell phone bans for School District 72, but there will be boundaries

Province requires all districts to have cell phone policies in place by 2024/2025
School District 72 will have cell phone usage policies in place by the 2024/25 school year as per direction from the Ministry of Education. Photo by Brendan Kyle Jure/Campbell River Mirror

Cell phones will not be banned by School District 72, the district board says in their Feb. 6 meeting.

Instead, policy will focus on limiting cell phone-based distraction in classrooms.

“If you paid attention to the news at all over the past three or four months, you could not have helped noticing how much cell phones were in the news,” says Superintendent Geoff Manning.

The provincial government requires all school districts to have policies in place by September, 2024 limiting cell phone usage in schools, considering them a sometimes detrimental and addictive distraction for students. Manning also mentioned the Ministry of Education’s direction that policies should also focus on the safety implications of cellphone usage for young people, such as predators, explicit content, and harm caused by brands and other companies through social media.

Currently, the district does not have a cell phone policy, operational procedure, or school code of conduct that specifically speaks to cell phone usage.

“It really started as something that swept across the country. (It was) Big news in Ontario and it made its way west with different districts declaring they were going to have a cell phone ban, and finally, the Ministry (of Education) decided they needed to take a stand and did a deep dive into what districts of the Province of British Columbia are doing. Out of 60 school districts, approximately half of them have some type of reference to cell phones whether it’s in school codes of conducts or operational procedures.”

The ministry’s ultimate goal, according to Manning, is to diminish the distractions that students face in the classroom.

Typically, teachers manage mobile phone usage in their classrooms, but the new policy from the district will take a more consistent approach in all classrooms (and school grounds) while recognizing phones can be used as learning and education tools.

“It’s more of an individual teacher preference in terms of cell phone usage in their classroom, so we’re going to be moving ahead this spring and summer and putting in place a procedure that all schools can adhere to so we can have some consistency across the school district,” says Manning.

Manning was part of a discussion with the district student council, where they had a “great” discussion regarding the matter. He said the council was very open about how some students are sometimes on their phones a lot in one class, but in other classes, they aren’t on the phones at all. The students were looking for guidelines on how to combat this, “because they have become so addicted” to their phones.

As for inappropriate or bullying images and videos posted online, Manning says the district works with Safer Schools Together to get the content removed as soon as possible. Legislation to keep companies accountable for their social media will be released in the spring by the Ministry of Education.