Nanaimo school district’s cellphone restriction policy will include public consultation

Nanaimo school district’s cellphone restriction policy will include public consultation
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Restrictions on use of cellphones are coming to B.C. schools but what that will look like at the district level is yet to be determined.

The B.C. government made the announcement Jan. 26 along with other actions related to “launching services to remove images from the internet and pursue predators, and legislation to hold social media companies accountable for the harm they have caused,” a release from the government says.

“While cellphones, the internet and social media help us connect with each other, they also present risks that can harm kids,” Premier David Eby said. “The impact and influence of these tools is so great, and the corporations so powerful, it can be overwhelming for parents.”

READ MORE: B.C. restricts cellphones at schools, targets social media firms with new legislation

The provincial government said it would be working with school districts to implement policies that “restrict students’ cellphone use in the classroom” to be in effect for next school year.

“Having cellphones in the classroom can be a distraction from the kind of focused learning we want kids to experience at school,” said Rachna Singh, Minister of Education and Child Care. “There also is a time and a place for cellphones, including when they support student accessibility purposes. By learning in a safe school environment how to use their cellphones responsibly and respectfully, including when to put them away, students will be better able to develop healthy habits around technology and social media use in their everyday lives.”

The province said it would also work on “ensuring more digital literacy training is available for students so they have the knowledge and tools they need to stay safe from online predators, become good digital citizens and develop healthy relationships with technology.”

Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools currently does not have a district-wide policy on cellphone use in schools and “schools and teachers do their own thing right now,” Greg Keller, chair of the NLPS board of education, told the Sounder, adding that “it’s pretty clear that cellphones can be a real distraction in the classroom.

“Overall the direction of having some consistencies across the district is a good thing.”

SEE PREVIOUS: Back to school cell phone rules tighten at Langford secondary school

The board will explore policy options and a draft policy will go out for public consultation though no timeline has been established yet. “The challenge right now is we don’t know what guidance we’ll be receiving from the Ministry [of Education and Child Care],” Keller said, adding he is pleased to hear the province will be working with school districts to develop the policy as it “allows for the district to have some local autonomy.

“My hope is that there will be accommodation for students who use [cellphones] for personalized learning, or for teachers who want to incorporate the technology into their lesson plans.”

Keller said enforcement of any cellphone restrictions “is a whole other issue which is going to be a challenge.”

Rachelle Stein-Wotten, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Gabriola Sounder

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