DeWine signs school cellphone policy bill into law

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — As the school year comes to an end, officials have some summer homework to do: implementing a cellphone policy.

On Wednesday, Gov. Mike DeWine joined leaders and middle school students to sign House Bill 250 into law.

The bill requires every public school in the state to adopt a policy regulating cellphone use during school hours. However, just because DeWine signed the bill doesn’t mean schools across the state must implement a policy.

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DeWine is asking school districts to take the summer to draft a policy that would work best for their students. Ideally, he’d like if every district implemented a policy by the beginning of the coming school year, but it is not required yet.

Dublin City School district already has a cellphone policy, it began this school year.

“I think it’s been working, but we have to continue to be able to adapt and adjust,” Dublin City Schools Superintendent John Marschhausen said. “When you look at having to add smartwatches, what happens when you get Google glasses? What happens with the what’s next? So I think we have to be flexible and watch where our students are.”

Students in kindergarten through eighth grade are cellphone free, including smartwatches. For high schoolers- no cellphones in the classroom.

“When we look at students on social media and the pressure that puts on them as young people, we want to be able to keep their mental health at the forefront as well,” Marschhausen said.

According to the superintendent, both students and parents seem to like this policy. He hasn’t heard much negative feedback.

“For the most part, our middle school students are talking to each other and they say thank you. They actually will take a deep breath when they say thank you,” he said.

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DeWine says that cellphones can play a huge role in students’ mental health, adding one thing they’ve heard is that eliminating cellphone use in schools has improved the quality of the students’ educational performance.

“It’s improved the culture of the school, reduces bullying both during school and after school, and reduces disciplinary problems,” Ohio Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said.

The measure passed out of both chambers with bi-partisan support, which DeWine said isn’t common.

“This happened this fast because there is a broad consensus today that cell phones in schools are not good,” he said.

Less than two months ago, DeWine began advocating for this bill and about five weeks later, it was sent to his desk for him to sign.

The cellphone policy is only part of H.B. 250. The legislation was originally about military enlistment seals, and now includes several unrelated provisions, including a $19 million allocation for the state’s adoption grant program.

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