A new Indiana Senate bill, SB 185, spearheaded by Jeff Raatz, R-Richmond, seeks to mandate policies restricting cell phone use during classroom instruction across all school districts in the state. If passed, this legislation will place Indiana among the states aiming to curtail distractions and enhance focus during school hours. Raatz, emphasizing the ample evidence supporting the bill, presented it during a committee hearing for education and career development.
This move mirrors recent legislation in Florida, where school districts are now mandated to prohibit cell phone use during instructional time unless explicitly approved by teachers for educational purposes. Terry Spradlin, executive director of the Indiana School Board Association, stated that while many school districts already address cell phone use in student handbooks or school board policies, the proposed bill would establish state-wide policy consistency to better enforce these restrictions.
Some districts take proactive measures, providing phone pouches that make the devices inaccessible during the school day. The bill will undergo further committee review, where it is expected to merge with House Bill 1198 from Rep. Julie McGuire, R-Indianapolis, and a similar proposal.
Examining central Indiana school districts, policies regarding cell phones in their 2023-24 student handbooks vary:
Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS)
Cell phones are prohibited during school hours and on school buses unless used with permission for educational purposes. Principals can allow individual students to use phones with written parental requests. Violations may result in corrective actions by teachers, escalating to parental involvement.
Hamilton Southeastern Schools (HSE)
Cell phones, smart watches, and wireless headphones are not allowed in classrooms unless approved by educators. Violations may lead to progressive disciplinary measures.
Carmel Clay Schools (CCS)
Similar to IPS and HSE, CCS restricts cell phone use during instructional time unless approved. Devices can be used in common areas outside of classrooms, subject to staff approval. Violations may result in disciplinary action.
Westfield Washington Schools
Teachers have discretion for device use in classrooms. Cell phones must be turned off and out of sight during class periods. Students can use phones during class changes and lunchtime.
Marion County Townships
Washington Township elementary and middle schools require cell phones to be in lockers or backpacks during the day. Pike Township mandates powered-off and out-of-sight cell phones, except with permission for use.
These policies reflect the evolving landscape of technology in education, balancing the benefits of digital tools with the need for focused learning environments. As Indiana lawmakers navigate this terrain, the impact on classroom dynamics and student engagement remains at the forefront of discussions.