Gov. Ron DeSantis challenged school boards across the state to regulate the use of cell phones in schools.
According to statista.com, 35.6 percent of children in 2019 spent between one and two hours using their cell phones daily. A total of 15.1 percent of young people spent more than four hours using their cell phones daily. That figure may be much higher in 2023.
In fact, during her presentation to the Hernando School District Board, Dr. Diane Kelly, master trainer for the suicide prevention program, The Hope Squad and member of the Okaloosa County School Board, credited increased cell phone use as at least partly responsible for the rising suicide rate among young people nationwide.
“Part of the problem is this,” Kelley said, holding up her mobile phone. “It really does rewire (students’) brains.” DeSantis made his remarks when he unveiled his education package during a Jan. 23, 2023, press event in Jacksonville. Part of that package includes a proposed decrease in term limits for school board members to eight years instead of the current 12 years.
“Also, I think school boards should be able to lean in on some things,” he said. “For example, why are these kids on their phones all the time? I think that the school boards are allowed to say, ‘put your phone in a cubby, and if you want to text at lunchtime, that’s fine.’”
The Hernando County School District already has a cell phone policy on the books. A section of the Student Code of Conduct covers student use of cell phones and a range of electronic devices, including privately/owned laptops, notebooks, e-Readers, iPod touch, smartwatches, and GPS trackers with a recording or transmitting capability.
According to the code, the devices may “only be used with permission and under the direct supervision of a staff member. When permission is not given, such devices must be turned off and put away during the school day or on the bus.”
“Smartwatches may be on the wrist in sight,” the code advises, “but shall not be utilized for recording or transmitting without permission.”
Under the policy, the individual student is fully responsible for any personally owned device they bring to school.
“The District is not liable for any loss, damage or theft of a personally owned device,” the code indicates. Also, the code forbids students from sharing devices. The Code also limits device use to schools participating in the District’s Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) program. BYOD is a program that allows students and teachers to bring their own laptops and tablets to school and use them there rather than having the school supply devices. Not all schools in the District participate in that program. Devices may only be used in certain approved areas of the school.
Finally, according to the code, students may not use devices in parts of the school designated as No Technology Zones or any other areas where devices are not permitted.
To view the complete Student Code of Conduct, visit https://bit.ly/3Hp3qHe .