The nation’s largest school district could ban cell phones by January

Adding to a growing list of school districts banning cell phones, the nation’s largest could be moving to do the same as early as January.

Phone usage during the school day has not only become a distraction, but an addiction, David Banks, the chancellor of New York City Public Schools, said during an on-camera interview with WNYW.

“We recognize the problem and that it is a major issue,” Banks said.

The chancellor said he expects a formal announcement to be made as soon as he fine-tunes how to implement a plan that would impact more than 1 million students across nearly 2,000 public schools in the city. Wednesday is the last day of school for the system before the summer break.

New York’s decision comes on the heels of the Los Angeles Unified School District moving to ban cell phones in schools just last week.

The moves from two of the country’s largest school districts highlight a frustration shared by educators from coast to coast. In the United States, 72% of high school teachers said cell phone distraction is “a major problem in the classroom,” according to a report last week by the Pew Research Center.

“In about two weeks, you’re going to hear a big announcement from us,” Banks told CNN affiliate, NY1 on Wednesday, adding the change could go into effect as early as January 2025.

“We’re still looking at the logistics of how you would actually roll it out in a system this large,” Banks told WNYW. “We’ll have those kinks worked out in the next couple weeks.”

CNN reached out to the chancellor’s office which deferred to his interviews, offering no further comment.

Meanwhile, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul is considering state-level action on the issue of smartphones in schools, according to a spokesperson.

States including Oklahoma, Kansas, Vermont, Ohio, Louisiana and Pennsylvania have all introduced similar legislation.

Hundreds of principals have told Banks to “take the phones,” according to local interviews he’s done with local media.

Some parents, though, aren’t sold on the idea.

Banks has heard parents’ concerns that a ban would prevent them from staying in touch with their children during an emergency, he said.

“We want you to be able to bring your phone to school because the minute that school is over you need to be in communication with your family,” Banks told NY1.

“We can’t control what happens once they’re home,” he said, “but maybe six to eight hours out of the day, we might have a little bit more control.”

Former New York Mayor Bill de Blasio allowed phones back into schools in 2015 after they were barred by his City Hall predecessor Mike Bloomberg. Bloomberg penned an op-ed Tuesday headlined, “Adams must reinstate NYC schools’ former cellphone ban – for our kids’ sake.”

New York Mayor Eric Adams supports the move.

“The distractions that come from cell phones is serious and we can’t ignore that,” Adams said during a news conference Tuesday. City Hall is looking for a “sweet spot” to “get parents in a comfortable place,” he said.

Adams did not respond to requests for further comment.

CNN has reached out for comment to the United Federation of Teachers, a union representing public school employees in New York City.

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