Ontario to ban cellphones from classrooms

By Jessie Weisner

The Conservative government conducted the largest education consultation in the province's history last fall, where it received feedback on a wide range of education-related topics and issues. During this consultation we heard that 97 per cent of respondents support some form of a ban on cellphones.

Reports say a directive will be given to all public schools in Ontario prohibiting the use of cellphones in class starting next school year.

Ministry of education officials, speaking on background, said students wouldn't be expected to lock up their phones and while enforcement will be hard, it will be left up to school boards.

"I think we're going to have to look at exactly what they (the province) announces and see how we will go about enforcing it".

Harvey Bischof, president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation, said it doesn't sound like the policy will differ from what is already happening in schools.

"We're certainly not anxious about cellphones being used for instructional purposes - that's a really great thing", she said.

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

That means students could use them in between classes, at lunch, and during after-school activities.

Like it or not, students are coming to school with smartphones in 2019.

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"It's not necessarily sustainable", he told CTV Edmonton on Tuesday.

NDP education critic Marit Stiles noted that a recent memo from the education ministry advised school boards to defer filling vacancies for retirements and other leaves for teachers and other staff until a promised update by March 15. The TDSB made a decision to leave it up to teachers to decide what works best in their classroom.

Cellphones carry certain risks for elementary school students.

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.

"It certainly aligns with our current practice and board procedure". Exemptions include lesson plans that integrate phones and for students with medical and/or special needs.

The ban is set to begin in the upcoming school year. "It's about recognizing that a school is a learning environment".

Across the Pond, France has banned phones in classrooms since 2010.

But some students question how such a ban would look.

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