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Virginia governor signs executive order to make schools cellphone-free

Students holding cellphones
Posted at 10:43 AM, Jul 10, 2024

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin has issued a new executive order directing the state's Department of Education to create guidance for public schools to limit or ban cell phones.

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

The governor's executive order directs the 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," the governor's office wrote in a release.

In addition to the guidance, the governor also ordered the Department of Education and the Department of Behavioral Health and Development Services to make $500,000 available from existing funds to support the implementation of the initiative.

“The data is clear, and it is time for Virginians to come together to address the damage of social media and screens to healthy childhoods. Government cannot be the sole solution to this crisis; school communities – especially parents and teachers – must work together to discuss and develop common sense approaches to limit screen time, prioritize open channels of communication, and re-establish norms that reinforce healthy and vibrant learning communities,” said Secretary of Education Aimee Guidera.

The Youngkin administration shared CDC data from 2019-2021 showing a rise in depression and suicide rates among teens to support their decision on the policy.

That CDC data showed that the rate of suicide has increased 167% since 2010 for girls and 91% for boys. The data also showed a spike in depression for boys and girls at 161% and 145%, respectively.

Under the order, VDOE will have to publish their draft guidance by Aug. 15. After considering feedback, the final guidance is expected in September.

Local school divisions will then have to adopt cellphone-free education policies and procedures by Jan. 1, 2025.

This story was originally published by Scripps News Richmond.