Cellphone rules change for Fairfax Co. students this fall

Cellphones will be banned in most places when public school students return to classes at the end of summer break in Fairfax County, Virginia.

The Fairfax County School Board voted 8-4 Thursday to ban cellphones during class and in bathrooms and locker rooms, other than for emergencies.

High schoolers will be allowed to use their phones in between classes and during lunch.

School board member Megan McLaughlin said she thinks students should have more freedom.

“When students spend more than 35 hours a week in our schools, to not give them that opportunity for small little breaks to communicate with their friends who are not in classes with them — this is a communication tool, and I just have concerns that I don’t believe we have fully vetted this,” she said.

But Cindy Conley, principal at Irving Middle School in Springfield, said the ban doesn’t go far enough.

“If you’re in the lunchroom or the hallways, you’ve got five minutes to text friends, and the he-said she-said, and all the back-and-forth can happen, and then your students are going into classrooms and they’re distracted.” Conley said.

The school board asked county staff to provide data on the policy and its enforcement once it goes into effect.

As WTOP previously reported, the changes would require students in kindergarten through sixth grade to have phones silenced and in backpacks during the school day. Things like smartwatches can be worn, but phone features would need to be turned off when phones are not allowed to be used. Phones and tablets also cannot be used in bathrooms or locker rooms.

For seventh- and eighth-graders, the same would apply, but phones can be stored in a locker backpack or pencil bag during the day.

For high school students, phones, phone accessories and smartwatches aren’t allowed during instructional periods.

More details on the changes can be found on the website for Fairfax County Public Schools.

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