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Alabama Board of Education adopts resolution to curb phone usage in schools

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — The Alabama State Board of Education voted unanimously Thursday to adopt a resolution aimed at curbing cell phone usage among students at public schools.

“We could not have predicted the great amount of national discussion that is happening across our country right now regarding the use of cell phones by our young people,” said Tracie West, vice president of the Education Board. 

“This resolution is intended to protect the instructional time in the classroom; I believe we cannot control what happens before they arrive each morning in our buildings, but when they’re with us, we must do all that we can to protect our students and our educators in the classroom.”

The resolution, which board members began working on in late 2023, would not mandate that public schools in Alabama ban cell phone use entirely, but rather, it would encourage school boards to consider instituting their own bans on cell phone usage during school hours.

State Superintendent Eric Mackey said that more specifically, the resolution would encourage school boards to update their policies on student cell phone usage, many of which have not been updated since state lawmakers passed a bill regulating the use of pagers in schools in 1989.

“This is both a local issue and a national discussion,” Mackey said. “It’s about cell phones, but it is really more about screen time and social media.”

The rise of social media over the last decade has seen cell phone usage among students increase dramatically over the past several years, most notably the use of the social media app TikTok. A 2023 study found that 97% of 11-to-17 year old students said they used their cell phones during school hours, with a median usage time of 43 minutes.

That same study found that through an entire day, including hours outside of school, poll participants used their cell phones for a median time of more than four hours, picked up their phone 51 times and spent one hour and 52 minutes on TikTok.

As regulation of cell phone usage is up to particular school districts and individual schools, some Alabama school systems have already instituted cell phone bans during school hours. Montgomery Public Schools bans cell phone use during school hours, something Mackey said had seen discipline rates reduced by about a third.

Having been adopted, it will now be up to individual school systems to either institute or reject the resolution’s recommendation that cell phone use during school hours be banned.

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