Provincial cell phone ban gets poor marks from teachers

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SUDBURY – The president of the Rainbow Teacher Local of the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario (ETFO) says it is insulting to teachers that the province feels compelled to implement a classroom cell phone ban.

“The minister (Education Minister Stephen Lecce) is suggesting that students spend too much time on cell phones,” stated Barb Blasutti. “This is an insult to teachers and is not reality in terms of what is actually going on in classrooms. It is really insulting to teachers to mislead the public into thinking students are spending so much of their time on Facebook when they are in class.”

“I think it’s ridiculous. This government is again attempting to switch where the attention should be, with one of the most important things being that the education system in this province is underfunded to the point that we have many schools that don’t have all the technology they need,” said Ms. Blasutti. “This is a non-news issue.”

Ontario’s Minister of Education announced plans to move forward with restricting the use of cell phones and other personal mobile devices in classrooms beginning November 4, 2019.

The restriction applies to instruction time at school; however, exceptions will be made if cell phones are required for health and medical purposes, to support special education needs, or for educational purposes as directed by an educator. 

During the consultation on education reform in fall 2018, 97 percent of parents, students and teachers who participated said that cell phone use should be restricted in some way.

In response to this feedback, the Provincial Code of Conduct has been updated to include this restriction. It sets clear standards of behavior and requires that all school boards ensure their own codes of conduct are up to date and consistent with requirements.

“When in class, students should be focused on their studies, not their social media,” said Stephen Lecce, minister of education. “That’s why we are restricting cell phones and other personal mobile devices in the classroom, while making sure technology is available help students achieve success in the digital economy and modern workforce.”

Norm Blaseg, director of education for the Rainbow District School Board (RDSB) said, “this is all about professional judgment of teachers, and this ban is putting a lot on teachers if it is up to them to ban cell phones. And the challenge will be enforcement.” He said students will not be suspended for bringing a cell phone into the classroom. 

The ETFO tweeted that the cell phone ban is another last-minute Conservative announcement about education plans for this school year. “The change allegedly results from last year’s consultations. Isn’t it time that this government released the overall results of the education consultations?”

NDP education critic Marit Stiles said teachers already decide when to ban cell phones in class or use them as educational tools.

“I don’t know why Doug Ford thinks he’s better at being a teacher than actual teachers,” she said in a statement.
“This issue raised by the minister is the king of non-news,” added Ms. Blasutti.