LAUSD to move forward with student cellphone usage ban during school day

The Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education voted Tuesday to ban student cellphone usage on campuses during school hours, joining a growing number of school boards to take such action and becoming the largest district in the U.S. to do so.

The ban’s purpose is to prevent the potentially negative impact that phones have on the mental health and well-being of students.

The vote, however, doesn’t automatically mean the ban will be implemented as staff is still consulting with stakeholders and experts before specifics are set in stone. 

“The phone-free school policy says from the moment students walk into class to the end of the day, they shouldn’t have their phones,” said LAUSD board member Nick Melvoin. “Let’s have kids interact with one another, free from the distractions that we know are harming mental health, their academics.”

The resolution by the board of the second largest school district in the U.S. cites research suggesting that students have less meaningful interactions with classmates and exhibit less propensity for learning when overly involved with their phones. 

“Research indicates that excessive cell phone use impacts adolescents mental health and well-being and is associated with increased stress, anxiety, depression, sleep issues, feelings of aggression, and suicidal thoughts,” said the Order of Business for Tuesday’s meeting. 

The proposal referenced other bans that have been implemented, including in Florida, where public schools began blocking student cellphone use during instructional time and prohibited access to social media while using district WiFi in 2023. Since then, districts in Oklahoma, Kansas, Vermont, Ohio, Louisiana and Pennsylvania have adopted similar restrictions, according to the LAUSD resolution. 

Over the next four months, the district will develop a set of policies for social media and cell phone use during school hours on every LAUSD campus. The new policy would go into effect at the beginning of 2025. 

Some parents have voiced opposition to a ban, noting that they would prefer their children to have access to their phones in the event of an emergency. 

“They should have it for protection once they leave the school campus,” said Regina Schoetz, an LAUSD parent who said she partially agrees with the motion, but doesn’t think that the ultimate decision should fall on the district. 

“I don’t think there should be a big ban on [cellphones] or lock them away,” she said. “I think it’s up to the parent.”

Melvoin says that the latest policy update to cellphone usage was implemented in 2011 and only calls for no phones during class time. 

On Tuesday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced his own plans on the topic, citing the mental health risks of social media on children.

“As the Surgeon General affirmed, social media is harming the mental health of our youth,” Newsom said in a statement. “I look forward to working with the Legislature to restrict the use of smartphones during the school day. When children and teens are in school, they should be focused on their studies — not their screens.”

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