Ohio bill to limit student cellphone use in schools heads to governor’s desk

An Ohio Senate amendment that would limit student use of cellphones in K-12 schools has passed both houses of the Ohio General Assembly and is expected to be delivered to Gov. Mike DeWine early this week for his signature.

The amendment to House Bill 250 would require all public schools to adopt a policy governing the use of cellphones by students during school hours and asks the Ohio Department of Education and Workforce to create a model policy.

The bill would, “emphasize that student cellular telephone use be as limited as possible during school hours,” and “reduce cellular telephone-related distractions in classroom settings,” according to the version passed by the Ohio Senate.

There are some cases when cellphones would always be allowed, such as if the student has requested to use one for a medical purpose.

The law would go into effect in July 2025 if signed.

The Ohio Senate tacked the amendment onto a bill about military seals on high school diplomas. Several other provisions have been added to the bill, including educator license regulations, busing, financial literacy models, and more.

According to the bill, the model cellphone policy the state would offer must use research on how students are affected by cell phones in school settings. Districts and schools would be able to adopt the model policy.

Cellphones in schools have become a larger topic of conversation among Ohio public officials this year. DeWine talked about such a policy during his State of the State address this year, and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted has also talked about the issue publicly.

Ohio State Reps. Tom Young, R-Washington Twp., and Phil Plummer, R-Vandalia proposed a separate bill, House Bill 485, that would limit students’ access to internet websites, social media, and personal devices like cellphones and laptops. That bill is still in committee.

Many local schools already have cellphone policies that severely restrict or ban phones from school classrooms. Dayton Public and Fairborn schools use Yondr pouches, which lock phones away from the student for the school day. Other schools allow phones but require students to keep them in their lockers. Still others ask students to keep phones in their backpacks.

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