News & U.S. Politics

‘Alarming Mental Health Crisis’: Red State Gov Cracks Down On Cell Phones In Classrooms With Executive Order

Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin issued an executive order on Tuesday to establish cell phone-free education for Virginia’s K-12 public schools.

Youngkin issued Executive Order 33, which directs the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) to engage with parents, students, teachers and local school leaders to restrict or eliminate the use of personal cell phones during instruction, according to a press release. The order will initiate the creation of specific protocols allowing parents to contact their children in the case of an emergency or other important situation.

Parents and educators have raised concern over the “alarming mental health crisis and chronic health conditions affecting adolescents” as a result of excessive social media use and cell phone possession in children, according to the executive order. (RELATED: ‘They’re Distracting’: Schools Lock Up Phones As Kids Struggle To Pay Attention In Class)

“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 in a press release.

VDOE and the Department of Behavioral Health and Development Services (DBDHS) will make a combined $500,000 available from existing funds for the implementation of the mental health initiative, the press release stated.

“Today’s Executive Order both establishes the clear goal to protect the health and safety of our students by limiting the amount of time they are exposed to addictive cell phones and social media and eliminates clear distractions in the classroom,” Youngkin said.

The executive order forces the secretary of education, the secretary of health and human resources, the superintendent of public instruction, the department of education and the state health commissioner to follow a detailed list of actions and ways to address the new cell phone-free style of learning. The list involves creating a detailed definition of “cell phone-free education,” facilitating listening sessions and publishing model implementation plans.

“Cell phones and digital media have caused pre-teens and teens to disconnect from the real world, have increased mental health challenges, and have caused significant disruption in the important daily learning opportunities in their classrooms,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Lisa Coons said in the press release.

Virginia follows in California’s footsteps after the Los Angeles Unified School District’s (LAUSD) board voted to ban cell phones during school hours in June. The school board’s June ban overrides an initial directive in 2011 to ban cell phones during instruction and only permit social media access when used for educational purposes.

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