Thursday, July 25, 2024

Youngkin Signs Executive Order to Establish ‘Cell Phone-Free Education’ in Virginia Public Schools

cell phones
Photo by Arnel Hasanovic on Unsplash

RICHMOND — Virginia will soon establish guidance to restrict or eliminate student cell phone use during instructional time at school.

On Tuesday, Gov. Glenn Youngkin issued Executive Order 33, which directs his administration to “heed the call” of parents, public health professionals, educators and others by establishing cell phone-free policies and procedures for school divisions, in light of growing concerns over children’s health and declines in academic performance.

The Virginia Department of Education, in collaboration with the Departments of Health and Health and Human Services, must clearly define what “cell phone-free education” means, and publish model plans and draft guidance on implementing cell phone-free education in Virginia’s K-12 schools on its website by Aug. 15, according to the governor’s directive.

As part of the policies’ development, the departments will be required to hold listening sessions seeking public input on “age-appropriate cell phone-free education policies and procedures, gather feedback on best practices currently underway in Virginia public schools, and receive input for the draft guidance,” the governor’s executive order reads.

The departments are slated to release the final guidance by Sept. 16 of this year. The order directs school boards to adopt the policies by Jan. 1, 2025, or before.

Youngkin’s order cites American Psychological Association research that suggests adolescents who spend over three hours on social media daily have double the risk of poor mental health. The order also references studies showing that children spend about 4.8 hours a day on social media, and that students who use their phones during class learn less and earn lower grades.

“Therefore, creating a cell phone-free education environment in public schools is not only a prudent measure but an essential one to promote a healthier and more focused educational environment where every child is free to learn,” Youngkin directive states.

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