Strict Cell Phone Ban in Florida School District Sees Drop in Bullying

In a move that goes beyond state requirements, Orange County Public Schools has instituted a strict cellphone ban affecting nearly 200,000 students across its 264 institutions. The policy prohibits students from using their phones during breaks and mandates that they store them in their backpacks, not pockets.

Governor Ron DeSantis had previously signed a bill in May that restricted phone usage in classrooms. However, the Orange County directive takes it further, much to the acclaim of some educators and parents who highlight its benefits.

Marc Wasko, principal of Timber Creek High School, noted a significant decrease in bullying and online disturbances since the ban’s implementation. “We had a lot of issues with students posting, or trying to record, things that went on during school time,” Wasko told The New York Times.

He added that students now seem more engaged, a sentiment echoed by longtime government teacher Nikita McCaskill, who praised the policy for rejuvenating her classroom dynamics.

While the ban has its proponents, it is not without its detractors. Some students feel the rule is overbearing, likening their schools to prisons due to the comprehensive nature of the ban.

Senior Sophia Ferrara argued that the policy hinders student autonomy, pointing out that she uses her phone for online college courses during breaks.

Safety concerns have also been raised. Peyton Stanley, a 12th grader, shared her apprehension about not being able to carry her phone for immediate communication, particularly with her mother.

The New York Times reported various opinions among Orange County’s parents and students. Lisa Rodriguez-Davis, a middle school teacher, expressed her frustrations with disruptive phone use, coining the term “Toilet TikToks” to describe students’ bathroom video recording antics.

Lyle Lake, Timber Creek’s security officer, plays a critical role in the ban’s enforcement, patrolling the grounds and overseeing security footage to identify rule-breakers. First-time violators have their phones confiscated, while repeat offenders face suspensions.

Supporters of the stringent ban, like Wasko, point to data that reinforces its necessity. In the initial month at Timber Creek, over 100 phones were seized. However, subsequent confiscations have decreased, and instances of phone-related bullying have diminished.

State Representative Brad Yeager lauded the original bill as a move to shield students from the distractions and pitfalls of social media. Following its enactment, Orange County School Board further tightened the restrictions.

Unique in its approach, Florida remains the only state to have implemented a statewide cellphone ban in schools.

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