Every school district and charter in the state will be required to create a policy this year restricting cellphones in the classroom and instructing principals on how to enforce it, according to a rule passed Friday by the Utah Board of Education.
The move likely short-circuits a bill being pushed in the state Legislature by Rep. Susan Pulsipher, R-South Jordan, who drafted a similar proposal because she’s concerned that students are using their phones to look at pornography while in school.
“Many kids are being exposed to inappropriate materials,” Pulsipher said at a legislative hearing this week. “Sometimes this is happening in fourth grade, fifth grade.”
The lawmaker noted Friday that she plans to table her measure, which was discussed in committee but not moved to the floor, after the board’s vote.
“For me, it’s not as much about passing a bill as solving a problem,” she said.
The board voted unanimously to pass the rule, adding an annual training requirement for teachers, students and parents that was in Pulsipher’s proposal. The members, though, focused more on phones being a distraction or students using them to cheat on tests.
Many schools already have policies, but enforcement appears to be inconsistent. Under the new rule, each district will have to draft its own restrictions, such as only allowing cellphones during lunchtime or requiring that all devices be turned off while on campus or permitting phones in certain classrooms.
Each will also have to sign an assurance that they are actually administering it.
Board member Scott Neilson, who’s a high school teacher, said when educators put classrooms policies in place now, they’re practically unenforceable because the districts don’t have anything to back them up.
“There’s very little teeth in these policies,” he said. “School should be for school and not five hours of social media.”