LA Unified moves forward with cell phone ban during school hours

School board members from the Los Angeles Unified School District, the second-largest district in the nation, voted 5-2 to move forward on a resolution Tuesday to ban cell phones during the school day.

LAUSD Superintendent Alberto Carvalho says the plan includes possible litigation against social media companies to protect students from addictive content.

"Now is the time. We know the impact that these social media entities are having on our children," said Carvalho.  "If we’re going to adopt good policy specific to phone utilization we need to take a bold step and set of actions specific to the impact that the platforms that operate on these phones, whether they are used in schools or not are having on our youth."

The resolution was spearheaded by LAUSD Board Member, Nick Melvoin. In an Instagram post, Melvoin said "The research is clear: widespread use of smartphones and social media by kids and adolescents is harmful to their mental health, distracts from learning, and stifles meaningful in-person interaction."

Melvoin and other school board members believe a ban could also lead to less bullying.

As a teacher, Melvoin said he saw students distracted by their devices and missing out on playing and socializing. His proposal would direct the superintendent to come up with a plan.

"We want everybody to talk about how best to do this but we want them to start with the understanding that it’s the goal of this district not to have cell use any time at the school during the day and I support it wholeheartedly," said LAUSD Board Member Jackie Goldberg. 

Other districts have already implemented no cell phone policies. 

"Some use cell phone lockers. So when a kid enters the school they just check their phone in a locker and they get it on the way out," Melvoin said. "Others use these pouches that some people might be familiar with from comedy shows or concerts."

However, some school administrators believe a ban would be difficult to enforce, and some parents want their kids to have cell phones for safety.

"Every public safety expert I've spoken to will say that it's safer in a school shooting or lockdown for kids not to be on their phones because a beep or vibration could notify the assailant of where kids are. Every kid calling their parents then every parent calling the switchboard can overwhelm 911," Melvoin added.  


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The US surgeon general is so concerned about teenagers' cellphone use that he is asking Congress to consider mandating social media carry warning labels, advising of the harm they can do to a teen's mental health. 

Following Tuesday's vote, the LAUSD Board of Education has directed its staff to develop policies that will be presented to the public. Those ideas will then be presented to the board with specific recommendations for approval.

The resolution seeks to have a new district cell phone policy in place by January 2025.

City News Service contributed to this report.