New York City Public Schools looks to ban cellphones

The nation’s largest school district could move to ban cell phones for students as early as this January. New York City Public Schools Chancellor David Banks said Wednesday that phone use is significantly impacting education.

“We recognize the problem and that it is a major issue,” he told WNYW.

Banks said the district is finalizing a policy to bar phones at more than 2,000 schools for more than 1 million students. He said the policy will be officially announced in the coming weeks.

New York City wouldn’t be the first major school district to nix phones. Los Angeles Unified School District voted last week to bar the devices starting in 2025.

“Kids no longer have the opportunity to just be kids,” said Los Angeles board member Nick Melvoin, who introduced the measure. “I’m hoping this resolution will help students not only focus in class, but also give them a chance to interact and engage more with each other — and just be kids.”

The trend to ban cell phones has become increasingly popular with local districts, with some schools implementing cell phone spots where students have to turn in their phones at the beginning of the day and can’t get them until the end. Some states, such as South Carolina, are looking at banning cell phones in all public schools statewide.

Other districts have taken creative solutions to lock away devices, including partnerships with startup companies.

Renesha Parks, chief wellness officer at Richmond Public Schools in Virginia, told The Hill in December of a pilot policy implemented in six schools at the beginning of 2024 to stop cellphone usage, partnering with Yondr, which creates magnetic pouches for cellphones. The measure impacts around 4,200 students and costs approximately $75,000.

“It’s a very costly initiative. But we do feel like it will decrease the amount of infractions that are happening as a result of student’s cellphone use and increase productivity and academic instruction in the classroom. It’s worth the investment,” Parks said.

In 2020, government data found almost 80 percent of schools banned cellphones for nonacademic purposes, but enforcement varies widely nationwide.

Lexi Lonas contributed.

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