B.C. High School Bans Cellphones from Classrooms

Belmont Secondary School is taking measures to ensure a distraction-free learning environment as students return to classes.

The high school located in the suburb of Langford west of Victoria on Vancouver Island, mandates that students either place their cellphones in designated containers at the front of the classroom or keep them silenced in their bags, reports the Times Colonist.

Additionally, headphones can only be used with a teacher’s consent, and “technology breaks” might be introduced, allowing students to check their phones during class.

In a letter addressed to families, Belmont’s principal, Laura Fulton, emphasized the school’s commitment to fostering a “healthy learning environment.” While acknowledging the significance of technology in students’ academic and social lives, Fulton highlighted the school’s responsibility to set healthy boundaries around technology use.

For urgent communication needs, parents can contact their children through the school office, and students can similarly reach out to their parents via the office or with teacher permission.

The debate around cellphones in classrooms gained traction recently when Quebec’s Education Minister, Bernard Drainville, proposed banning them in most classroom settings, labeling them as distractions. A survey revealed that 92% of 7,000 teachers in Quebec support such a ban.

Don Peterson, the president of the Saanich Teachers’ Association, noted the ongoing debate among educators about allowing cellphones in classrooms. Meanwhile, École John Stubbs Memorial School encourages students from kindergarten to Grade 8 to follow the motto: “Bell to Bell, NO CELL.”

Royal Bay Secondary School, Edward Milne Community School and the Sooke School District’s middle schools also have a ban on cellphones, and now Belmont has joined the latter.

Deb Whitten, superintendent of the Greater Victoria School District, mentioned that rules for electronic devices in secondary schools are primarily determined by individual teachers.

Bonnie Leadbeater, a former psychology professor at the University of Victoria, supports rules governing device usage in schools. She believes that classrooms should be spaces for socializing, discussions, and questions without the interference of cellphones.

Drawing a parallel with driving, Leadbeater emphasized the importance of focusing on the present task and not multitasking. She recalled an instance from her teaching days at UVic when a student was watching a football game during class, underscoring the need for clear guidelines.

Back in May, an experiment that banned cellphones for five months at Chatelech Secondary School in Sechelt, B.C., saw improved mental health, increased engagement and better academic success.

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