State education leaders look to restrict student’s cellphone use in schools across Massachusetts

The state’s K-12 education department is encouraging districts to restrict or ban students’ cellphone use in schools, possibly moving toward a statewide mandate in the future.

The education commissioner floated the idea on Tuesday. Hard to believe a time existed without cell phones, now the state says it could be interfering with your child’s learning.

“Today the surgeon general warned of the dangers of social media on students and teenagers in particular,” says Commissioner Jeffrey Riley, Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

During Tuesday’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education meeting, board members heard from students and staff in certain districts that have either banned phones or put heavy restrictions on them at school.

“It has helped me as an educator really build trust and relationships with my students,” says Gerry Pardilla, a teacher at Marlborough High School.

“Teachers that enforce it more regularly if they see a phone on the desk, you are sent down to the office, I have actually had really good experiences in those classes and I’ve made closer connections,” says Tessa Scrimaeour, a student at Milford High School.

On Monday we saw just how necessary phones were for students at St. John’s Prep who used them to reach their parents when reports went out of a possible active shooter.

“We were all like calling parents,” says a student at St. John’s Prep.

“I was texting my parents the whole time,” says a student at St. John’s Prep.

“Started texting parents and calling but still trying to stay quiet,” says a student at St. John’s.

Commissioner Jeffrey Riley says the state has not mandated any phone restrictions for schools, but says the department wants to reward districts that pilot the idea with a matching grant up to $1 million. Parents that Boston 25 News talked to have mixed emotions about cell phones in school.

“I do not think that the kids should be on their phone playing games or texting during school hours. I personally think it is for emergency situations,” says Eva Nicholas, a Haverhill School Parent.

“They should be put away until the end of the school day or unless there is an emergency that arises,” says Cheryl Buckman, a Boston School Parent.

The proposed money for school districts that pilot a policy on restricting cell phones would come from Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Funds.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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