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Ohio schools likely to have to develop cellphone policies

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(The Center Square) – Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine will have to settle for school districts establishing respective cellphone policies rather than the state limiting use for students during the school day.

In his State of the State address last month, DeWine called on lawmakers to establish statewide cellphone restrictions. Instead, the legislature passed a bill that would require districts to come up with policies.

The House and Senate, which both passed the legislation unanimously, added the policy requirement to a bill passed late Wednesday that changed the name of the state’s “Military Enlistment diploma seal” to the “Military diploma seal” and offered new paths for high school students to earn the seal.

If DeWine signs the bill, each public school would have to adopt a policy governing the use of cellphones by students during the school day. Also, the Department of Education and Workforce would have to adopt a model policy schools may use.

Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said in a statement he agreed local policies should be developed, rather than a statewide ban.

“As I have talked with educators, I agree that each school should develop its own policy based on grade levels, teacher and parental input, and not a one-size-fits-all state policy,” Husted said. “The facts are clear: eliminating smartphones in schools leads to improved academic performance and reduces bullying and disciplinary issues.”

In his State of the State address, DeWine called cellphones a major distraction in state schools.

Republican and Democratic lawmakers agreed but shied away from supporting DeWine’s plan for statewide cellphone restrictions when he introduced it last month. Leadership in both parties said policies should be developed at the local level for each school district.

“I think the idea of eliminating smartphones during the school day is a great idea,” said Senate President Matt Huffman, R-Lima. “The governor has talked about encouraging it. All of us learned to read without the use of smartphones. I think that is something important to happen, beyond the bad content on the internet.”

House Minority Leader Allison Russo, D-Upper Arlington, also said individual districts should make local decisions.

“I don’t think there is a one-size-fits-all all for every school district and every situation,” Russo said.

Despite the objections, Reps. Tom Young, R-Washington Township, and Phil Plummer, R-Dayton, introduced a bill that would have effectively banned the use of cellphones during instruction times with few exceptions.

That bill has yet to be brought to a vote.

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