Apr 29, 2024

By Jane Brown

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“We have heard loud and clear from parents and teachers alike. Cellphones in classrooms are distracting kids from learning.”

And with that comment, Education Minister Stephen Lecce has announced a province wide crack down on cellphone use, as well as vaping, in schools starting in the next academic year.

“Families in Ontario will receive a letter from the government outlining the goals, the objectives and the mutual expectations,” Lecce explained on Sunday.

The Ford Progressive Conservatives tried to implement a cellphone ban in 2019, asking individual school boards to come up with a policy restricting use for educational, health and medical purposes during class time. But he says this time the policy is province wide.

Lecce told reporters that teachers’ judgement will be respected on when and how technology will be used in the classroom. But if a student breaks the rules, their cellphone should be immediately surrendered to a staff member and parents will be notified. Repeated violations could result in suspensions.

So as of September, students in kindergarten to grade 6 will be asked to keep their phones on silent and out of sight for the entire day, unless permitted by a teacher.

Students in grades 7 to 12 will need to observe a cellphone ban during class time.

As part of the new policy, social media sites will be banned from all school networks and devices.

But Karen Littlewood, president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation says students will find a way.

“Students are really clever, so on a school board network now you won’t be able to access Tik Tok or Snapchat. I bet I could find you a grade 9 student in about 30 seconds who could find a work around for that,” Littlewood said.

As well, starting in September, students caught with vape or e-cigarette products on school property will be required to surrender them and parents will be notified immediately.

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