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Ontario to ban use of cellphones in school classrooms starting in September

Ontario is introducing a suite of measures that will crack down on cellphone use and vaping in schools.

The new rules will go into effect in the 2024-2025 academic year.

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 an educator.

Students between Grades 7 and 12 have a little more flexibility, with cellphones only banned during class time.

If a student breaks the rules, their cellphone should be immediately surrendered to a staff members and parents will be notified.

“We have heard loud and clear from parents and teachers alike that cellphones in classrooms are distracting kids from learning,” Education Minister Stephen Lecce said in a statement released Sunday.

“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.”

As part of the new policy, social media sites will be banned from all school networks and devices. The government will also ban sharing and recording videos or photos of individuals without explicit consent, although it’s unclear how this will be monitored or enforced.

Teachers will also be asked to include comments on students’ distraction levels in class within report cards.

The policy changes come as four Ontario school boards launch lawsuits against multiple social media platforms, claiming their products negligently interfere with student learning and have caused “widespread disruption to the education system.”

The suits allege that Snapchat, TikTok, and Meta have “knowingly and/or negligently disrupted and fundamentally changed the school [and] learning.”

Premier Doug Ford has called the lawsuit “nonsense.”

The Progressive Conservatives tried to implement a cellphone ban in 2019, asking school boards to come up with a policy restricting use for educational, health and medical purposes during class time. The changes to the provincial and school board codes of conduct made it clear the restrictions applied to students on school property, at school-related events, or in virtual settings.

What’s changing with vaping?

The government already announced in its 2024 budget that it would spend $30 million to install vape detectors and other security upgrades in schools.

Students caught with vape or e-cigarette products will be required to surrender them and parents will be notified immediately.

The government will require that schools post signage in public spaces that outline “behavioural expectations” and a marketing campaign will be launched that’s directed at students and parents to increase awareness of the new policy.

The pricetag for these changes is about $17.5 million, with $15 million earmarked for addictive behaviour supports.

Officials say that a PA day will be used to provide teachers and staff with mandatory training on practices to remove distractions.

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