ST. GEORGE — In a recent special session of the Washington County Board of Education meeting, discussions on cell phone policies in local schools took center stage. Diverse opinions on the subject were voiced, from one board member stating the issue should be handled on a local level as small as individual classrooms, to some agreeing that conformity with the governor’s stance is the best course of action.

Board members acknowledged that each school has handled arising issues differently, with some successfully implementing strict guidelines while others faced pushback. Some noted that phones in the classroom can be used as an asset for research, class participation in quizzes and even test taking.

The board encouraged ongoing discussions and welcomed input from fellow members and educators throughout the state to exchange ideas and potentially create a formal administrative letter or policy.

The board declined to vote on the matter at this time, stating that the issue would be brought up again outside of a special session.

However, having governor reinforcement on the issue gives the school district a resource to support a decision should they adopt a strict no phones in future school policy.

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In a news release, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox expressed his concerns about the negative impacts of social media on children and has called on district and charter school leaders, principals, school community council members and the State Board of Education to take action. Cox is advocating for the removal of cell phones during class time to create a focused environment conducive to learning.

The governor is encouraging local school districts and charter schools to join him in this effort to keep phones stored in backpacks or lockers during class time.

Several schools in Utah have already embraced schoolwide anti cell phone policies. He cites Delta High School in the Millard School District as an example of a successful “cell phone-free” school.

Students place their phones in clear pockets in front of the classroom. One assistant principal mentioned that although it was initially challenging, the results have been well worth the effort.

Undated image of the Utah State Board of Education building, Salt Lake City, Utah | Photo courtesy Utah State Board of Education, St. George News

Some schools go as far as banning them not only in the classroom, but a total ban on the school campus. Evergreen Junior High in the Granite School District has implemented a strict no-cell-phone policy throughout the school day.

Principal Ryan Shaw emphasized the positive impact on learning, reflected in improved scores, decreased incidents of bullying and fighting and enhanced meaningful connections among students. Shaw noted that a complete ban received minimal pushback from students and parents.

Cox recommended that educators take a proactive approach, involving parents in the process to collaborate on the development of cell phone policies. Evergreen Junior High’s success is attributed in part to their efforts in educating parents about the benefits of a cell phone-free learning environment.

The governor hopes that by working together, schools and parents can create an environment conducive to effective and focused education.

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