A student in Peter Miedema's eighth-grade history honors class puts...

A student in Peter Miedema's eighth-grade history honors class puts his cellphone into a basket before the start of class at Shelter Island School last June. Educators have been grappling with students' cellphone use. In New York, there's not a uniform policy regarding it. Credit: Randee Daddona

ALBANY — Gov. Kathy Hochul said she wants to explore a ban on internet access on students’ cellphones in classrooms as a compromise between educators who want to end the distraction to instruction, and anxious parents who want to be able to contact their kids.

Hochul’s new idea would allow students to possess their cellphones but without internet access during classes.

“If you want to reach your parents because there’s an emergency [such as] you forgot your lunch money, you can communicate, if it’s essential,” Hochul said of the idea. “But to have access to the whole internet while you’re supposed to be in class is a different question.”

Hochul’s first mention of the idea this week has prompted some early discussion about the dilemma that pits inattention by some students in classrooms against the rights of those students and their parents. The state has no uniform policy for student use of cellphones while in class. Schools across New York have a variety of policies, and nationwide more state officials are stepping in to create uniform policies in the void.

“This is something I’ve thought about for a long time,” Hochul said. “I don’t want my granddaughter to have a phone in school because it takes the focus off school.”

Nationally, 76.9% of school districts prohibited nonacademic use of cellphones during school hours in 2019-2020 school year, according to the latest data available from the National Center for Educational Research. That figure is up from 65.8% of districts that prohibited nonacademic phone use in the 2015-2016 school year.

There are several ways schools have sought to limit or block internet services to students’ phones, according to press reports. Some schools around the country have blocked students from their Wi-Fi service, while more schools have blocked certain noneducational websites and platforms, such as TikTok, over content that can include violence and nudity.

Other schools have required that students put their phones in high-tech “pouches” designed to block internet signals but don’t lock and still allow students access to their phones in an emergency.

In Albany, Hochul’s new statewide approach is intriguing to school officials who have wrestled with this complex issue.

“I think if there is a technological way to cut out the distractions, but keep parents feeling as though safety is going to be moderately guaranteed, that has to be a good thing,” said Jay Worona, deputy executive director and general counsel for the New York State School Boards Association. “I think we would be supportive of that … we would welcome such a conversation.”

The association of school boards that set school districts’ policy, however, has no stance at this time on cellphones in classrooms. Part of the reason is that such a rule could reduce a tool that could be used in lessons to enhance instruction, Worona said.

“Some districts would like to employ technology in the classroom and forcing kids to surrender cellphones is the opposite of that,” Worona said. “Others say we need to take them away.”

Still others, Worona said, note that in an era with frequent school shootings, “it can be very traumatizing for parents to be out of contact with their children.”

In 2006, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg embraced a long-standing policy intended to ban cellphones in city schools. Parents fought back, but in 2007, a state court upheld the city’s ban. The court, however, also said that such policies “are better left to administrators who at least have the potential capacity to institute new rules to meet changing technologies.” In 2015, Mayor Bill de Blasio called the ban out of touch with modern parenting and ordered it to be overturned.

On Long Island, educators have told Newsday they’re seeing more students who can’t keep their hands off their cellphones during class, a problem exacerbated after anxious students returned from the COVID pandemic.

There is no listing of the various cellphone policies of schools. They include confiscating phones at the beginning of class or at the beginning of the school day, restricting use of phones to time between classes, and outright bans of cellphones by students in schools.

Though the state Education Department doesn't have a uniform policy for cellphone use in class, it does have a policy that prohibits use of cellphones during the states’ standardized tests.

Hochul’s idea would be the next big thing in what she says is a personal quest to make the internet and social media safer for youths. During this legislative session scheduled to end June 6, she’s pushing the legislature to approve a bill supported by her and Attorney General Letitia James to restrict algorithms that social media can use to ensnare youths and compound negative thoughts about themselves and their future.

But Hochul said her proposal to limit internet access to students through their phones in classrooms will require months of meeting with educators, health care professionals and technology leaders. Once fully developed, her idea could be part of her budget presentation in January, which would give it more leverage than similar efforts have had in the past. That’s because under the state constitution, governors have greater leverage over the legislature to enact their policy within the budget.

On April 30, Assemb. Keith Brown (R-Commack) introduced a bill “prohibiting students from possessing cellphones during classroom instruction.” But the proposal, like many in other states including Florida, is sponsored by a Republican. Brown’s bill would need to gain Democratic support under Albany’s rules to advance the legislation from the minority conference to a floor vote. The bill so far has no Democratic co-sponsor and no companion bill in the Senate, which would be necessary for passage into law.

One Democrat, however, has made inroads this year.

Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont sent guidance to schools on how to more strictly control cellphones in schools and is pushing the state Board of Education to develop a model statewide policy.

“Increasingly, kids on the smartphones are tuning out each other, tuning out learning and tuning into unfiltered images which can be fun or disturbing,” Lamont said in his State of the State address. Then, directing his speech to students, he said: “I want you to start your day listening to your teacher and playing with your friends, not your phone.”

ALBANY — Gov. Kathy Hochul said she wants to explore a ban on internet access on students’ cellphones in classrooms as a compromise between educators who want to end the distraction to instruction, and anxious parents who want to be able to contact their kids.

Hochul’s new idea would allow students to possess their cellphones but without internet access during classes.

“If you want to reach your parents because there’s an emergency [such as] you forgot your lunch money, you can communicate, if it’s essential,” Hochul said of the idea. “But to have access to the whole internet while you’re supposed to be in class is a different question.”

Hochul’s first mention of the idea this week has prompted some early discussion about the dilemma that pits inattention by some students in classrooms against the rights of those students and their parents. The state has no uniform policy for student use of cellphones while in class. Schools across New York have a variety of policies, and nationwide more state officials are stepping in to create uniform policies in the void.

WHAT TO KNOW

  • Gov. Kathy Hochul said she wants to explore a ban on internet access on students’ cellphones in classrooms.
  • The idea, in its early stages, is seen as a compromise between educators who want to end the distraction to instruction, and anxious parents who want to be able to contact their kids.
  • The state doesn't have a uniform policy for student use of cellphones while in class.

“This is something I’ve thought about for a long time,” Hochul said. “I don’t want my granddaughter to have a phone in school because it takes the focus off school.”

Nationally, 76.9% of school districts prohibited nonacademic use of cellphones during school hours in 2019-2020 school year, according to the latest data available from the National Center for Educational Research. That figure is up from 65.8% of districts that prohibited nonacademic phone use in the 2015-2016 school year.

There are several ways schools have sought to limit or block internet services to students’ phones, according to press reports. Some schools around the country have blocked students from their Wi-Fi service, while more schools have blocked certain noneducational websites and platforms, such as TikTok, over content that can include violence and nudity.

Other schools have required that students put their phones in high-tech “pouches” designed to block internet signals but don’t lock and still allow students access to their phones in an emergency.

Enhancing vs. interrupting learning

In Albany, Hochul’s new statewide approach is intriguing to school officials who have wrestled with this complex issue.

“I think if there is a technological way to cut out the distractions, but keep parents feeling as though safety is going to be moderately guaranteed, that has to be a good thing,” said Jay Worona, deputy executive director and general counsel for the New York State School Boards Association. “I think we would be supportive of that … we would welcome such a conversation.”

Hochul: “I don’t want my granddaughter to have a phone in...

Hochul: “I don’t want my granddaughter to have a phone in school because it takes the focus off school.” Credit: TNS/Susan Watts/Office of Governor Kathy Hochul/TNS

The association of school boards that set school districts’ policy, however, has no stance at this time on cellphones in classrooms. Part of the reason is that such a rule could reduce a tool that could be used in lessons to enhance instruction, Worona said.

“Some districts would like to employ technology in the classroom and forcing kids to surrender cellphones is the opposite of that,” Worona said. “Others say we need to take them away.”

Still others, Worona said, note that in an era with frequent school shootings, “it can be very traumatizing for parents to be out of contact with their children.”

In 2006, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg embraced a long-standing policy intended to ban cellphones in city schools. Parents fought back, but in 2007, a state court upheld the city’s ban. The court, however, also said that such policies “are better left to administrators who at least have the potential capacity to institute new rules to meet changing technologies.” In 2015, Mayor Bill de Blasio called the ban out of touch with modern parenting and ordered it to be overturned.

On Long Island, educators have told Newsday they’re seeing more students who can’t keep their hands off their cellphones during class, a problem exacerbated after anxious students returned from the COVID pandemic.

There is no listing of the various cellphone policies of schools. They include confiscating phones at the beginning of class or at the beginning of the school day, restricting use of phones to time between classes, and outright bans of cellphones by students in schools.

Though the state Education Department doesn't have a uniform policy for cellphone use in class, it does have a policy that prohibits use of cellphones during the states’ standardized tests.

Eyes on social media safety

Hochul’s idea would be the next big thing in what she says is a personal quest to make the internet and social media safer for youths. During this legislative session scheduled to end June 6, she’s pushing the legislature to approve a bill supported by her and Attorney General Letitia James to restrict algorithms that social media can use to ensnare youths and compound negative thoughts about themselves and their future.

A basket full of students' phones in Peter Miedema's class...

A basket full of students' phones in Peter Miedema's class at Shelter Island School last June. Credit: Randee Daddona

But Hochul said her proposal to limit internet access to students through their phones in classrooms will require months of meeting with educators, health care professionals and technology leaders. Once fully developed, her idea could be part of her budget presentation in January, which would give it more leverage than similar efforts have had in the past. That’s because under the state constitution, governors have greater leverage over the legislature to enact their policy within the budget.

On April 30, Assemb. Keith Brown (R-Commack) introduced a bill “prohibiting students from possessing cellphones during classroom instruction.” But the proposal, like many in other states including Florida, is sponsored by a Republican. Brown’s bill would need to gain Democratic support under Albany’s rules to advance the legislation from the minority conference to a floor vote. The bill so far has no Democratic co-sponsor and no companion bill in the Senate, which would be necessary for passage into law.

One Democrat, however, has made inroads this year.

Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont sent guidance to schools on how to more strictly control cellphones in schools and is pushing the state Board of Education to develop a model statewide policy.

“Increasingly, kids on the smartphones are tuning out each other, tuning out learning and tuning into unfiltered images which can be fun or disturbing,” Lamont said in his State of the State address. Then, directing his speech to students, he said: “I want you to start your day listening to your teacher and playing with your friends, not your phone.”

Newsday Live and nextLI present a conversation with experts on the impact of powerful storms and rising insurance costs on Long Island hosted by NewsdayTV Anchor/Reporter Macy Egeland. The conversation continues on newsday.com/nextli where we invite Long Islanders to share their experiences on this looming crisis of changing weather patterns, flooding, shoreline protection, home buyouts and more to find potential solutions for the region’s future.

Paying the Price: Long Island's stormy future Newsday Live and nextLI present a conversation with experts on the impact of powerful storms and rising insurance costs on Long Island hosted by NewsdayTV Anchor/Reporter Macy Egeland.

Newsday Live and nextLI present a conversation with experts on the impact of powerful storms and rising insurance costs on Long Island hosted by NewsdayTV Anchor/Reporter Macy Egeland. The conversation continues on newsday.com/nextli where we invite Long Islanders to share their experiences on this looming crisis of changing weather patterns, flooding, shoreline protection, home buyouts and more to find potential solutions for the region’s future.

Paying the Price: Long Island's stormy future Newsday Live and nextLI present a conversation with experts on the impact of powerful storms and rising insurance costs on Long Island hosted by NewsdayTV Anchor/Reporter Macy Egeland.

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