Legislature tackles bills on cellphones in school


February 28, 2024

Years ago, when I was in school, I spent a lot of time looking out windows and daydreaming. When assigned tasks were finished while waiting for slower classmates to catch up, I had free time to fill. Some students took the opportunity to doodle in their notebooks. Some looked for opportunities to pick on a classmate or pass a note. I mostly daydreamed.

Later when I heard about a granddaughter who was allowed to read library books during those free times in class, I was envious. I would have loved that opportunity.

In modern times, cellphones seem to have replaced doodling, daydreaming and reading. Students can be found sending Snapchat messages to friends, checking their social media accounts and using Google or other browsers to look up interesting topics. This activity might be okay if it occurred during free time, after assignments were finished. But teachers are finding students using their cellphones during classroom instruction. Occasionally a teacher will become so frustrated that he or she requires cellphones be placed on a shelf upon entering the classroom.

Claremore Superintendent Bryan Frazier says his district implemented a cellphone ban for this school year at its Will Rogers Junior High School, serving grades six through eight. Students must put their phone in their lockers before the first bell rings and aren’t allowed to access them until the final bell rings to end their school day.

There are also multiple cellphone-related bills moving through the Oklahoma Legislature. Companion bills in the state Senate and House of Representatives, authored by Sen. Ally Seifried, R-Clare, and Rep. Chad Caldwell, R-Enid, would authorize the Oklahoma State Department of Education to create a one-year pilot program for the 2024-25 academic year.

The bills – House Bill 3913 and Senate Bill 1321 – would provide grants to public middle schools, junior high schools and high schools to “incentivize phone-free spaces for student learning.”

Seifried’s bill has received Education Committee approval and now sits in the Appropriations Committee in the Senate. Caldwell’s bill was approved by a House subcommittee and has been sent to that chamber’s full Appropriations and Budget Committee.

In addition to those bills, the Senate Education Committee has passed Senate Bill 1314, a proposal by Education Committee chair Adam Pugh, R-Edmond, that would provide an even more aggressive inventive program. Under that program, the OSDE (Oklahoma State Department of Education) would create and administer the incentive program.

Once a public school district had its cellphone-free policy approved by the department, it would receive a mid-year adjustment in state aid, based upon the district’s enrollment – $100,000 for those with an average daily attendance (ADA) of 500 or less, $500,000 for districts with ADAs of 501-1,500 students and $1 million for district with more than 1,500 students.

Imagine teaching a room full of middle school or high school students without the distraction of cellphones! Perhaps it might even improve student grades.


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