Patterico's Pontifications

6/19/2024

LAUSD Votes To Ban Cellphone Use During School

Filed under: General — Dana @ 8:01 pm



[guest post by Dana]

This is really good news. However, given that the horse is already out of the barn, enforcement may prove difficult:

The Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education on Tuesday voted to ban cellphone use during the school day.

The new rule will take effect in January 2025, though the Los Angeles Times notes the details still need to be “approved in a future meeting by the Board of Education.”

The prohibition for using cellphones includes during breaks and lunchtime.

Still to be worked out is how the policy will be enforced. Additionally, there will be exceptions: “use the devices for homework or translating English as non-native speakers”.

Several years ago, Patterico and I had the privilege of attending a lecture by psychologist Jonathan Haidt. He is a brilliant observer of youth today, their addiction to cell phones, and the incredible distraction from real life they provide, for better or worse. And it’s mostly worse. About young people and their phones, he made this observation:

Haidt blames the spike in teen-age depression and anxiety on the rise of smartphones and social media, and he offers a set of prescriptions: no smartphones before high school, no social media before age sixteen.

And about the problems resulting from students using their phones during the school day, Haidt wrote this last year:

I was invited to give a talk at Scarsdale Middle School. There, too, I met with the principal and her top administrators, and I heard the same thing: Mental- health problems had recently gotten much worse. Even when students arrived for sixth grade, coming out of elementary school, many of them were already anxious and depressed. And many, already, were addicted to their phones.

To the teachers and administrators I spoke with, this wasn’t merely a coincidence. They saw clear links between rising phone addiction and declining mental health, to say nothing of declining academic performance. A common theme in my conversations with them was: We all hate the phones. Keeping students off of them during class was a constant struggle. Getting students’ attention was harder because they seemed permanently distracted and congenitally distractible. Drama, conflict, bullying, and scandal played out continually during the school day on platforms to which the staff had no access. I asked why they couldn’t just ban phones during school hours. They said too many parents would be upset if they could not reach their children during the school day.

Haidt points out that these days school districts are much more open to the possibility of banning phones in schools. Of course, given the downward turn with the mental health of young people and their addiction to cell phones, this makes sense.

Ultimately, he hits the nail on the head:

All children deserve schools that will help them learn, cultivate deep friendships, and develop into mentally healthy young adults. All children deserve phone-free schools.

Good for LAUSD. I hope other school districts follow suit.

—Dana

47 Responses to “LAUSD Votes To Ban Cellphone Use During School”

  1. Hello.

    Dana (985852)

  2. This is a good thing. I hope this helps spur others to do the same.

    Nate (cfb326)

  3. I wonder how this will work. Detectors won’t work (kids will put them in airplane mode to get past detection). Will they take the phones away if used? The exceptions augur abuse.

    If you wanted to be clear about the phones, give each teach a 30lb oak mallet and allow them to smash a phone they find in use. But they won’t. Instead there will be a warning, then another warning, then … another warning. In extreme cases they will warn some more.

    Zero tolerance; no phones on campus. Learn English if that’s your problem and do your homework at home.

    Kevin M (a9545f)

  4. *each teacher

    Kevin M (a9545f)

  5. Note also the Surgeon General proposed health warnings. How long until Facebook gets hit with a class-action suit? “They knew they were addicting kids; they knew it was harmful too them; they knew of the suicides. They ruined young lives. You, in the jury, can send them a message! …”

    Kevin M (a9545f)

  6. I just don’t know how this works practically. You require, or provide, laptops or tablets, there are watches, bluetooth connected devices, etc.

    I guess it’s a good idea, but how does it work?

    They’ve done it at our school district, but parents still want their kids to have phones and if they insist, there isn’t much of a recourse for the school. You can’t take the phone, that may be felony theft (greater than $100), so teachers have been told to tell them to put it away, but that’s the end of it from a practical perspective.

    Colonel Klink (ret) (96f56a)

  7. Gavin Newsom wants to ban cellphones in California’s public schools; and Surgeon General Vivek Murthy wants to require social media platforms to post warning labels (which would require Congressional action).

    This panic over social media and teens reminds me of the fear mongering over comic books in the 1950s over their supposed contribution to juvenile delinquency. Aside from the anecdotal reports of teen depression, etc., what do scientific studies show about the impact of social media and cellphone use by teens?

    As noted above, I can see parents opposing a ban, as it would make it impossible for them to communicate with their children in an emergency. And teens would find a way to get around any ban.

    Rip Murdock (b10aa6)

  8. For example, a co-worker is able to track her daughter’s location through her smartphone, ensuring that she has arrived home safely.

    Rip Murdock (b10aa6)

  9. You can’t take the phone, that may be felony theft (greater than $100)

    If the school says it’s contraband they can, just as if it was marijuana. “Do not bring your phone to school” is pretty clear.

    The problem is that they are ADDICTED. They have a compulsive obsession (that’s what addiction means) to check their feeds. You tell them to put it away and 5 minutes later it is out again. The teacher will be doing nothing else.

    As far as laptops and pads, they can disallow any with cellular connections, then turn off the wifi or firewall it to prevent outside access.

    Kevin M (a9545f)

  10. For example, a co-worker is able to track her daughter’s location through her smartphone, ensuring that she has arrived home safely.

    So what. There was a time she couldn’t and we all somehow survived.

    Kevin M (a9545f)

  11. Banning cellphones in schools is nanny statism that both the left and the right can unite on.

    Rip Murdock (b10aa6)

  12. This panic over social media and teens reminds me of the fear mongering over comic books in the 1950s over their supposed contribution to juvenile delinquency.

    1) Have you SEEN the comics of the early 50s?

    2) This is about a widespread addiction. Think smoking, not comic books.

    Kevin M (a9545f)

  13. Banning cellphones in schools is nanny statism that both the left and the right can unite on.

    Just like they united on kids smoking cigarettes.

    Kevin M (a9545f)

  14. What worries me is what the kids do when they have to go cold turkey for 6 hours a day.

    Kevin M (a9545f)

  15. Rip,

    a) The phone doesn’t “ensure she arrives home safely” it ensures that the parent knows when they arrive home safely. Those aren’t the same thing. The phone isn’t keeping her safe, and if anything, probably makes her less safe. It does allay some of the parent’s fears (which is valuable, to be sure).

    b) Using a phone on your way home from school is fine. I don’t see how having a phone off in your backpack is “having a phone at school.”

    Nate (cfb326)

  16. Just like they united on kids smoking cigarettes.

    Kevin M (a9545f) — 6/19/2024 @ 8:55 pm

    Kids have always grabbed a light during school underneath the bleachers, a cellphone ban would be equally successful.

    Rip Murdock (b10aa6)

  17. What worries me is what the kids do when they have to go cold turkey for 6 hours a day.

    Kevin M (a9545f) — 6/19/2024 @ 8:56 pm

    LOL! They will probably have the same symptoms of depression and anxiety they have now.

    Rip Murdock (b10aa6)

  18. b) Using a phone on your way home from school is fine. I don’t see how having a phone off in your backpack is “having a phone at school.”

    Nate (cfb326) — 6/19/2024 @ 8:58 pm

    LOL! The temptation to sneak a look at your phone in the bathroom, under the bleachers, or at lunch would be impossible to resist.

    Rip Murdock (b10aa6)

  19. If the school says it’s contraband they can, just as if it was marijuana. “Do not bring your phone to school” is pretty clear.

    You can’t just declare it contraband, it’s not weed. You do get 90+% compliance, but parents have rights.

    Colonel Klink (ret) (96f56a)

  20. Rip, if phone usage is relegated to sneaking it in the bathroom, as vaping is, then… that’s great.

    I’m not sure you’re aware of the situation right now where kids are glued to their phones at lunch, in the halls, even in the classroom. No one is saying some kids won’t sneak it while in the bathroom.

    Nate (cfb326)

  21. Colonel, is there some legal precedent you’re claiming or hypothesizing that this might be the case? Because I don’t think you’re right (I’d be willing to be shown otherwise).

    Nate (cfb326)

  22. There will be hell to pay (and millions of dollars) if parents and police can’t communicate with students during the next mass school shooting because the school is a “cellphone free zone.”

    Rip Murdock (b10aa6)

  23. Rip, if phone usage is relegated to sneaking it in the bathroom, as vaping is, then… that’s great.

    One more thing to turn students into scofflaws. At some point they would need to be disciplined. Maybe suspended after a third offense of looking at their feeds?

    Rip Murdock (b10aa6)

  24. It was specifically stated by our superintendent, but the statute is.

    514.030 Theft by unlawful taking or disposition — Penalties.
    (1) Except as otherwise provided in KRS 217.181, a person is guilty of theft by
    unlawful taking or disposition when he or she unlawfully:
    (a) Takes or exercises control over movable property of another with intent to
    deprive him or her thereof; or
    (b) Obtains immovable property of another or any interest therein with intent to benefit himself or herself or another not entitled thereto.

    And then there are bunch of penalties depending on value or if it’s a gun or drug. I think he was confused on the value, they updated it from $100 to $1000 for the felony threshold, it had been $100 from the 70’s till 2 years ago.

    Also.

    If any person commits two (2) or more separate offenses of theft by unlawful taking or disposition within ninety (90) days, the offenses may be combined and treated as a single offense, and the value of the property in each offense may be aggregated for the purpose of determining the appropriate charge.

    Colonel Klink (ret) (96f56a)

  25. It would be hard to convince a prosecutor, but the district doesn’t want that liability.

    Unintended consequences and all that.

    Colonel Klink (ret) (96f56a)

  26. and if anything, probably makes her less safe.

    Like at crosswalks.

    Kevin M (a9545f)

  27. You can’t just declare it contraband, it’s not weed. You do get 90+% compliance, but parents have rights.

    It depends on what the legislature says, no? Don’t like it? Try the private schools.

    Kevin M (a9545f)

  28. The best thing about this is it will teach kids about government in ways their teachers currently don’t. Rip’s nanny state comment is apt. Welcome to the world, kids.

    Kevin M (a9545f)

  29. Rip Murdock (b10aa6) — 6/19/2024 @ 9:22 pm

    Note that the left-wing LAUSD board has banned their police force from regular campus patrols.

    The district’s own data shows a 45% spike from 2017-18 to 2022-23 in incidents involving suicide risk, fighting/physical aggression, threats, illegal/controlled substances and weapons. And 25% in the year ending 2022-23.

    Weapons incidents rose from 994 to 1,197 in the year ending 2022-23.

    Rip Murdock (b10aa6)

  30. There will be hell to pay (and millions of dollars) if parents and police can’t communicate with students during the next mass school shooting because the school is a “cellphone free zone.”

    1) The next school shooting in any given district is “never.”

    2) There are plenty of ways to communicate.

    3) Parents will react poorly no matter what. Having their child tell them some madman is roaming the school with a gun will not allay their fears.

    Kevin M (a9545f)

  31. Note that the left-wing LAUSD board has banned their police force from regular campus patrols.

    A week after the superintendent asked for the patrols. And, I ask, why are they still paying the school police?

    Kevin M (a9545f)

  32. Nate (cfb326) — 6/19/2024 @ 8:58 pm

    Kevin M (a9545f) — 6/19/2024 @ 9:33 pm

    Actually her mom pays for an Uber driver to take her home.

    Rip Murdock (b10aa6)

  33. Colonel, the word “unlawfully” seems to do a lot of work. No, a teacher cannot take a kids phone, then give it to their niece as a Christmas present. Yes, a teacher can take a kid’s cellphone and give it back to them at the end of the day.

    I was shocked earlier this year to find out that teachers are fairly well (overly?) protected by the law. A student I talked to had their phone taken by a teacher, the teacher put their phone just outside of the classroom in the hall and asked the student to come talk to them outside the class. The student refused and went back to working on their assignment. The phone was left in the hall. The phone was then unsurprisingly stolen. The student had no recourse; the teacher had no consequences. The teacher could voluntarily reimburse the student if they felt like it.

    I was shocked when I heard this, and looked up both the district policy and applicable case law, and was floored that this was in fact the legal situation.

    Which is why I was skeptical about your claims. I think you’re misreading the statute.

    Nate (cfb326)

  34. 2) There are plenty of ways to communicate.

    3) Parents will react poorly no matter what. Having their child tell them some madman is roaming the school with a gun will not allay their fears.

    Kevin M (a9545f) — 6/19/2024 @ 9:39 pm

    1) Two incidents that prompted LAUSD police to deploy (just to two schools) involved students (one a fourth grader) bringing handguns onto campus. No one (including Kevin M) knows when the next mass shooting will happen. Schools should operate as if it could happen today.

    2) Like how-Morse code mirror flashing?

    3) I’m sure parents would like to know their child is alive; and I’m sure the police would like to know where they are hiding.

    Rip Murdock (b10aa6)

  35. There will be another mass school shooting, 100%. The likelihood that it’s in your school is tiny, but it’s not zero, and LAUSD has 1300 schools, ours has 5, but we had one in 94.

    Colonel Klink (ret) (96f56a)

  36. I think you’re misreading the statute.

    I’m assuming our super had a reason to say it. He proposed the rule, and backed out for a reason.

    Colonel Klink (ret) (96f56a)

  37. Nic should really weigh in on this one, but she’s probably using her summer break to travel the world.

    norcal (43c48c)

  38. Theft by unlawful taking or disposition

    Nothing there about lawful taking.

    Kevin M (a9545f)

  39. He proposed the rule, and backed out for a reason.

    It could have been political, not legal. Just like the LAUSD school board killed the superintendent’s school police plan almost immediately.

    Kevin M (a9545f)

  40. Because you don’t have to define the offense of permissible taking, that’s called giving.

    Colonel Klink (ret) (96f56a)

  41. Because you don’t have to define the offense of permissible taking, that’s called giving.

    Like me and the IRS.

    Kevin M (a9545f)

  42. There are all kinds of “lawful takings”: easements, eminent domain, taxes, fines, liens, contraband seizure, non-allowed item seizure (e.g. TSA), asset forfeiture, commandeering and the Draft.

    I’m sure I’ve left some out. None of those are really “giving.”

    Kevin M (a9545f)

  43. From the (paywalled) Los Angeles Times:

    ………
    The resolution (which as yet to receive a fourth vote) would not immediately put a ban into effect. It directs staff to “develop and present to the public” policies that would prohibit student use of cellphones and social media “during the entire school day,” including lunch and breaks. Input would be solicited from “experts in the field, labor partners, staff, students and parents,” and details would come back to the school board for approval within 120 days.
    ………
    Options under consideration include providing cellphone lockers or pouches that keep devices locked up and inaccessible until they’re tapped against a magnetic device when exiting campus. Technology also could be used to block access to social media platforms.
    ………
    The policy would go into effect in January 2025.
    ………
    One elementary principal said the policy would be overkill that would result in unnecessary work. He said about 25% of his students have smartphones, but they are a problem for fewer than 10; those can be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. The principal spoke not for attribution because he was not authorized to be interviewed.

    Another elementary principal noted on the Facebook group Parents Supporting Teachers that she does not “see the need for Apple watches and cellphones on our young students. Now, as a parent of an LAUSD high school student who sometimes walks home, I DO see the need. It is a safety issue. All in all, I think they cause a lot of unnecessary drama on campuses, but need my HS student to have hers.”
    ………
    District high school teacher Terri Derrickson Barraza wrote in a social media post that she “would love to see some type of ban on cell phones BUT ONLY if the district is going to back up the ban with logical consequences. If we are passing a ban with no backbone simply for PR reasons, it just makes my job harder.”

    The resolution did not specify a penalty, but the most obvious response to a violation would be for a phone to be confiscated for a period of time deemed appropriate.
    ……….
    While social media provide a convenient platform for bullying, it’s difficult to say how much that would change with a school-day cellphone ban, since the devices and social media would be available at other times.
    ………..
    Under existing policy, L.A. Unified prohibits “the use of cellular phones, pagers, or any electronic signaling device by students on campus during normal school hours or school activities, excluding the students’ lunchtime or nutrition breaks.”
    ………
    Under the policy, students are permitted to possess phones, pagers or electronic signaling devices on campus provided they remain “off” and are stored in a locker, backpack, purse, pocket or other place where they are not visible during normal school hours or activities.
    ########

    Rip Murdock (d2a2a8)

  44. You miss about 500 years of common law.

    I hope that there can be a way to convince butthole parents that they should require their kids to follow the rules, but, especially for smaller districts, a single case may cost them hundres of thousands of dollars, and teachers would only need to see a single case happening to bail on enforcement.

    A law, or stipulation in legislation on regulation, would help. Barring that, and your examples are specifically those, it’s a rule that can is in a grey area, and there lies the risk.

    I’m sure your hoping for Gavin Newsom’s success in passing a law allowing schools to regulate it.

    It’s kind of odd that all the parent’s rights folks only care when the right is something they agree with. The historic problem with liberals that they pick and choose between items not rights, now the GOP is full of liberal nanny staters.

    Colonel Klink (ret) (96f56a)

  45. It’s all right to ban use of cellphones during school hours, but they seem to be talking about possession

    It may be hard to get started, but this is just the same thing as banning passing notes or talking in class.

    https://www.nydailynews.com/2024/06/13/a-cell-phone-ban-in-nyc-schools-is-bad

    ….Teachers are rightfully frustrated, and this behavior should not be tolerated, full stop. Just like talking during class is a problem; passing notes; daydreaming. The proposed solution is to ban cell phone use in all schools.

    But why, in a school setting, would we not teach our kids the same lessons of agency and accountability we impart when they talk in class, pass notes, or are similarly disruptive or distracted? Instead, by removing the ability for students to prove themselves or fail, the lesson is that not only do they not have our trust, but they aren’t even given the opportunity to earn it.

    How’s that for engendering self-confidence and personal responsibility in the precise age-group that needs it the most? Not to mention that this does nothing to alleviate the addiction, rather, it fuels it by further fetishizing the devices. Demerits, detention, loss of privileges, parental involvement are tools used for every other form of misbehavior in school, which teach consequences without infantilizing students, some of whom are age 18.

    Beyond the pedagogic, enacting a system-wide ban on cell phones in NYC schools is costly and impractical, at a time when our schools can’t afford either. The cost of the hardware (typically Yondr pouches) that will imprison the phones for a school of 1,000 students is approximately $30,000. This does not include the additional hourly cost for staff to open and close the pouches….

    ….The school day will certainly not be lengthened to accommodate the twice daily pouching and unpouching; time spent at the expense of student learning (and student sleep). Large schools already have long lines to enter in the morning to simply swipe ID cards. Adding this time-consuming ritual means longer commutes and less sleep. Imagine how long it would take the 6,000-plus students of Brooklyn Tech to go through this every day.

    I’m not suggesting that we throw our hands up and give kids unfettered access to their phones and the internet. Parental controls, dinner table rules, and screen time limits are all tools at our disposal. As are demerits, detentions, loss of privileges, and any other consequence facing a student who breaks the rules. The lessons learned from screwing up and facing consequences are invaluable.

    Metal detectors in schools are disfavored in part because they signal to students that they are bad actors before they walk through the door. Locking up phones may not be as overtly offensive, but it sends the same message: you can’t be trusted. Given that this proposal isn’t net neutral, Gov. Hochul and city Schools Chancellor David Banks should consider the trade-offs and not throw the baby out with the smartphone.

    And the association with distress is probably not inherent but because if the way cell phones are used (also outside of school hours) It is not the phones themselves.

    Sammy FInkelman (e4ef09)

  46. And of course the law that prohibits the disabling of cell phones should be repealed.

    Sammy FInkelman (e4ef09)

  47. As for exams what is done for notes or note books can be done for cellphones. If they can be hidden they can be hidden anyway.

    Sammy FInkelman (e4ef09)

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