Local state representative says school cell phone bill will be brought back

BOONES CREEK, Tenn. (WJHL) — State Rep. Rebecca Alexander called the failure of her bill on cell phone use in schools a “big disappointment,” but said the fight is not over.

The legislation failed to get majority support in the House Education Administration Committee on Wednesday with members voting 8-8 with one present not voting.

The bill would have required schools to prohibit students from using their cell phones in class except for instructional purposes.

“It was a big disappointment for me not to get that out (of committee),” Alexander said. “Never in my dreams would I have dreamed that we would not get it out of committee. I think the Senate would have passed it just like that.”

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Science Hill High School Principal Dr. Josh Carter accompanied Alexander to the committee hearing to express his own concerns with cell phone use.

“We can make a policy,” said Carter. “But if you make a law against cell phones, you’re showing the seriousness of the issue.”

Lawmakers on the committee brought up several concerns. Some felt the bill was redundant because many school districts have already banned cell phone use during class. Others voiced concern about students being able to call their parents in the event of an emergency.

“My daughter just graduated from high school,” said Representative Antonio Parkinson, who represents Memphis. “If she was in an emergency, if there was an emergency at her school, I absolutely would want her to call me first and not rely on you all to save her life.”

On Wednesday, two local school officials accompanied Alexander at the committee hearing, urging lawmakers to support her bill.

“If kids have a cell phone on their desk or on them, they are constantly distracted and we need kids during instructional time to be able to pay attention and just stay focused on what they are learning,” Alexander said. “Our school systems here are already implementing those policies, but they wanted a law across the state.”

The Jonesborough Republican told News Channel 11 that the bill will be brought back.

“That’s just the way it goes sometimes. Sometimes you win some, sometimes you lose,” Alexander said. “But it’s something we’re going to work on and we’re coming back with it. And I think we will have the data to prove that it works when we come back with it.”

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