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They're distractions. But N.L. school district says cellphones aren't being banned in classrooms

A Guelph man has been arrested after allegedly stealing a sim card from the phone of an organization he worked for and using it in his personal cellphone. Police say the organization became aware of the theft after receiving a bill of more than $10,000. (Martin Diotte/CBC - image credit)
A Guelph man has been arrested after allegedly stealing a sim card from the phone of an organization he worked for and using it in his personal cellphone. Police say the organization became aware of the theft after receiving a bill of more than $10,000. (Martin Diotte/CBC - image credit)
A Guelph man has been arrested after allegedly stealing a sim card from the phone of an organization he worked for and using it in his personal cellphone. Police say the organization became aware of the theft after receiving a bill of more than $10,000.
A Guelph man has been arrested after allegedly stealing a sim card from the phone of an organization he worked for and using it in his personal cellphone. Police say the organization became aware of the theft after receiving a bill of more than $10,000.

Newfoundland and Labrador isn’t planning on banning cellphones in the classroom, as has been done in Ontario and Quebec. (Martin Diotte/CBC)

Newfoundland and Labrador isn't planning on banning cellphones in the classroom, as has been done in Ontario and Quebec.

In an emailed statement to CBC News, the Department of Education said it's not having discussions about a cellphone ban and that cellphone use in the classroom is up to the discretion of the school or individual teachers.

It's clear that phones are disruptive in classrooms, says Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers' Association president Trent Langdon. But, it doesn't warrant a ban.

"This is about teaching responsibility," said Langdon. "I think it's incumbent on schools but also incumbent on families to teach responsibility with cell phones."

Quebec and Ontario ban

Quebec is the second province in the country to ban cellphones in classrooms, following in the footsteps of Ontario.

The Quebec ban, which came into effect Dec. 31, applies to elementary and secondary schools with the aim of reducing distractions in class. Teachers do have the option to allow students to use their phones for specific teaching purposes.

Ontario's ban came into effect in 2019, but teachers unions have argued the ban is not being enforced properly, with cellphones still making appearances in classrooms.

Some schools are seeing success with phone bans, with some school counsellors reporting improved mental health and engagement, and decreased bullying.

While policing cellphone use in the classroom can put pressure on teachers, says Langdon, an outright ban would also be difficult for teachers to manage. He says teachers need support from the provincial government and school districts when it comes to controlling inappropriate phone use.

He says a ban wouldn't be the most effective way to teach students how to function outside the classroom. The reality is that cellphones exist, he says, and schools need to teach students how to use them appropriately.

"We've got to teach kids these skills because one step away from the school system is the workplace," he says, "and it's not like we are going to be able to say, 'Okay, no cellphones now and the next day you can have them.'"

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