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Ont. government bans cellphones in the classroom

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The Ontario government has announced new rules aimed at cracking down on cellphones and social media use in schools, but not everyone is happy with the plan.

The new measures will go into effect for the 2024-2025 academic year.

Kids in kindergarten to Grade 6 will be required to keep phones on silent and out of sight for the entire school day.

Students in grades seven and up will see cellphone use banned during class time.

Educators can make exceptions, but if students use their phone without permission, the device may be confiscated.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce says the changes are aimed at reducing distractions in the classroom.

“When it comes to cellphones, our policy is ‘out of sight and out of mind,’ as we get students back to the basics by restoring focus, safety and common sense back in Ontario schools,” Lecce said in a news release.

Reaction in Waterloo Region

The announcement got mixed reviews from students in Waterloo Region.

“I don’t think it’s really necessary to be honest,” said Tyler Quach, a Grade 10 student at St. Benedict Catholic Secondary School in Cambridge.

“If they take it away for the whole day it kind of sucks,” Grade 12 student Lucas Parent said.

Another Grade 10 student, Christophe Kouyoumdjin, could see the positives.

“Kids are going to be more focused doing their work, they’re going to pay more attention,” Kouyoumdjin said.

As part of the policy, social media websites will be removed from all school networks and devices, the government explained.

Teachers will also be asked to include comments on students’ distraction levels in class within report cards.

In an email, the Waterloo Catholic District School Board said it was still determining how to apply the new policies.

“Implementing such changes across our schools will require careful planning and consideration to ensure compliance with the ministry’s direction,” the board said.

The Waterloo Region District School Board did not reply to request for comment.

What do teachers think?

The plan has drawn criticism from teachers’ unions, who say policing the ban will put even more pressure on educators who are already stretched thin.

“None of this is going to address the needs in Ontario schools right now,” said Karen Littlewood, president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation. “This is just an announcement of more policing, instead of an announcement of greater supports.”

Both the elementary and secondary school teachers’ unions say there were not approached by the province for any input on the ban. They say the move fails to address deeper issues students face in schools.

“We’ve got [teacher] recruitment and retention issues,” said David Mastin, vice-president of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario. “Members don’t want to come into this profession, it’s just not worth it for them in a variety of areas. I think this will just add to that problem.”

The unions say it’s still unclear how the ban will be enforced.

-- With reporting from CTV's Tyler Kelaher and files from The Canadian Press

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