Gov. Youngkin issues executive order establishing ‘cellphone-free education’ in Virginia

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Gov. Glenn Youngkin on Tuesday issued an executive order requiring public school divisions to adopt policies establishing cellphone-free education by January 2025.

The order directs the Virginia Department of Education to initiate “a robust public engagement effort with parents, students, teachers, local school leaders and other stakeholders to develop collaboratively policies and procedures that establish the age-appropriate restriction or elimination of cell phone use during instructional time, as well as to establish protocols allowing parents to contact their children in emergency and other important situations,” Youngkin’s office said in a news release.

The VDOE and the state Department of Behavioral Health and Development Services have budgeted a combined $500,000 from existing funds to support implementation of the program.

“This essential action will promote a healthier and more focused educational environment where every child is free to learn,” Youngkin said in the release. “Creating cell phone and social media-free educational environments in Virginia’s K-12 education system will benefit students, parents and educators.”

The release said children spend an average of 4.8 hours a day on social media, and recent studies indicate that spending more than three hours a day on social media doubles the risk of poor mental health for adolescents.

“Most alarming is the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention data from 2019-2021, reporting that the rate of suicide has increased 167% since 2010 for girls and 91% since 2010 for boys. In the same timeframe, boys and girls experienced a spike in depression of 161% and 145%, respectively,” the release said.

The executive order directs the VDOE to publish its draft guidance by Aug. 15. School divisions will be required to adopt cellphone-free education policies and procedures by Jan. 1, 2025.

Last month, the Stafford County School Board approved an updated student code of conduct that bans student phones during instructional hours while Loudoun County schools instituted stricter rules for middle and high school students. The Manassas School Board is also considering updating its student electronic device policies.

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