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Ontario unveils new plan limiting cellphone use, banning vaping in schools

The Ford government announced it is introducing new limits on cellphone use in schools and banning vaping devices in a move to reduce distractions in classrooms and improve the health of children.

During an announcement Sunday morning, Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce said the province is implementing a back-to-basics plan that will be implemented in the fall and includes some of the strongest measures in the country relating to restrictions on cellphone use and banning vaping in schools.

“We have heard loud and clear from parents and teachers alike that cellphones in classrooms are distracting kids from learning,” said Lecce.

“Our government is introducing the toughest policy in Canada to tackle this issue by cracking down on cellphone usage during class time, as well as banning vaping in all schools. When it comes to cellphones, our policy is ‘out of sight and out of mind,’ as we get students back to the basics by restoring focus, safety and common sense back in Ontario schools.”

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As part of the new plan, kids in kindergarten to Grade 6 will be required to keep phones on silent and out of sight for the entire school day unless they get explicit permission from an educator. Meanwhile, those in grades 7 and up will see cellphone use banned during class time.

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The new policy will also require all publicly funded school boards to block access to all social media platforms on school networks and devices, a move the government says is the first of its kind among Canadian provinces.

The province said teachers will undergo mandatory training as part of these changes. Report cards will now include comments on students’ distraction levels in class.

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Vaping devices will also be banned from schools and school-related settings, along with cannabis, nicotine and tobacco products, Lecce said.

If caught vaping, students will be required to surrender their devices and parents will be notified immediately.

The government noted that $30 million in the 2024 Budget will go toward installing vape detectors and other security upgrades in schools.

To support these initiatives, the government also announced $17.5 million funding to bolster mental health supports to connect students and families with mental health services.

Dr. Kieran Moore, the province’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, said removing vaping products from schools will help protect students from these “preventable threats.”

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“Ontario is seeing a growing number of youth in Grades 7 through 12 report using vaping products that contain and emit many toxic substances,” said Moore.

“These products can affect the respiratory, immune and cardiovascular systems, and nicotine in these products is particularly harmful to youth brain development.”

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