New York City to Clamp Down on Cellphone Use in Schools

Announcement on the Cards

David Banks, Schools Chancellor, hinted on Wednesday that New York City’s schools might enforce tighter restrictions on cellphone use. He indicated that a significant announcement regarding this policy change will be made within the next two weeks. While specifics are yet to be revealed, students would most likely be allowed to bring their devices to school but wouldn’t be able to use them during classroom hours.

The Rationale Behind the Decision

Banks expressed to NY1 that the goal behind this decision was not to completely remove phones but to control their usage during school hours. He stated, “We want you to be able to bring your phone to school… but we’re going to look to have a system when you can’t use it during the school day.”

If this policy comes into effect, New York City would join a growing list of cities and states cracking down on cellphones in schools. Banks noted that not only do these devices serve as distractions, but they also negatively affect students’ mental health. Conflicts originating on phones have even led to out-of-school violence.

Follow-on Action from Other Regions

This month, Los Angeles’ school board, which presides over the second-largest district in America, approved a similar restriction. Amid new limits on teen social media usage, Gov. Hochul is also eyeing statewide prohibitions on smartphones with internet capabilities in schools.

Banks mentioned consulting with healthcare professionals on this issue, highlighting the detrimental impact on student mental health. He added, “Our kids are fully addicted to these phones. We’ve got to do something about it.”

A Throwback to a Past Ban

New York lifted its citywide ban on cellphones in schools in 2015. Former mayor Bill de Blasio was responsible for this move, favoring more localized and flexible approaches. However, this led to inconsistency in application, with principals, teachers, and staff having to enforce their own rules and each school treating the issue differently.

The Need for a Concrete Plan

United Federation of Teachers President, Michael Mulgrew, asserts any citywide restriction needs careful planning. Previous attempts at blanket bans were unsuccessful due to a lack of a comprehensive strategy and overreliance on schools and teachers to enforce rules.

Mulgrew emphasized the increasing issues with cellphones in classrooms and stated, “If we’re going to do this, then we have to have a plan for the largest school system in the country.”

Learning from Past Mistakes

Banks suggested that he is keen not to repeat past mistakes. Formerly, the ban was heavily enforced in low-income neighborhoods with school metal detectors. This gave rise to a lucrative cell phone storage industry near schools, leading to additional costs for families.

Balancing Parental Concerns

Mayor Eric Adams, though agreeing on the distraction cellphones cause, highlights the need to accommodate parents’ desire for accessibility to their kids during the day. Citing the tragic events of 9/11, Adams said, “A lot of parents were really afraid when they couldn’t reach their children during 9/11.” He believes a balanced approach can be found.

In conclusion, while the unanimous agreement on the issues caused by cellphones in schools is clear, implementation of a restriction policy that meets all stakeholders’ needs remains a challenging task. And as the largest school system in the country, the solution New York City Schools adopt could set a template for others to follow.


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