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15 Jul, 2024
Schools to ‘disconnect’ from cell phones, Gov. Youngkin’s executive order
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Schools to ‘disconnect’ from cell phones, Gov. Youngkin’s executive order

ROANOKE, Virginia – Governor Youngkin’s order on cell phones in schools has many people incensed – but in truth, the discussion about cell phones had been going on for years before he even mentioned it.

“I’d like to think I have a few years to think about it, but that’s not always the case,” said mother Jessica Blandy.

Blandy’s daughter is only seven years old, but as a teacher and president of the Roanoke City Council’s Parent-Teacher Association, cellphones quickly became a topic of conversation.

“I have sophomores who go to after-school programs, but someone else picks them up to go to a dance or to sports, so all of a sudden I start thinking, ‘But wait, maybe I want them there,’” Blandy said.

Emily Casey is a mom of an 11-year-old — and she doesn’t want to buy her son a phone anytime soon. But even then, she still thinks about it.

“It’s definitely not a simple case,” Casey said.

Together with him, she will have to find her way in high school, where phones are everywhere and all the time.

“I drive past all the high school and middle school bus stops and I see kids looking at their phones and not talking to each other,” Casey said.

Governor Youngkin’s Executive Order requires the Department of Education to develop policies to create cell phone and social media free schools.

Education Secretary Aimee Guidera told me this is a process they want to work closely with parents on.

“We need to prioritize conversations. Listening to all stakeholders, especially parents, around their concerns and making sure their voices are heard,” Guidera said.

Guidera emphasizes that they want to create a distraction-free environment, but they also want parents to be able to contact their children in the event of an emergency.

The guidelines will go into effect by August 15, and schools must adopt their own policies by the first of the year. And that can vary from school to school.

“We are learning from school departments here in Virginia. We are proud to say that we have over two dozen school departments that are already taking action on this issue and we can learn from them,” Guidera said.

One such office is Roanoke City, where Blandy works in a research group focusing on cell phones.

“It all came down to reading the research and then applying it to our schools and doing what’s best for all of our kids,” Blandy said.

Virginia Education Association President Dr. James Fedderman issued a statement saying:

“We recognize the growing concern about the impact of cell phones in our classrooms and believe it is imperative to approach this issue with a nuanced perspective that takes into account the real needs of our students and educators. We urge the Virginia Department of Education to engage in meaningful dialogue with educators to develop balanced guidelines that support effective teaching and learning while addressing legitimate concerns about distraction. Our priority remains ensuring that the policies are practical, enforceable, and in the best interests of our educators, students, and families. VEA stands ready to assist in any way we can.”

Dr. James Fedderman, President of VEA

You can read Youngkin’s full executive order here. Also, find out how you can voice your opinion.

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