Schools to ‘hang up’ on cell phones per Gov. Youngkin’s executive order

Parents have mixed reactions to the news

ROANOKE, Va. – Governor Youngkin’s executive order on cell phones in schools has a lot of people up in arms — but truth be told, the conversation on cell phones has been going on for years before he ever brought it up.

“I would like to think I have a few years to think about this, but that’s not always the case,” mom Jessica Blandy said.

Blandy’s daughter is only seven years old, but as a teacher and Roanoke City Council of PTAs President, cell phones have quickly become a topic of conversation.

“I’ve got second graders that are going to an after-school program, but then someone else is picking them up to go to a dance or a sport, and so all of a sudden you really start to be like, ‘But wait, maybe I would want them in that situation,’” Blandy said.

Emily Casey is the mom of an eleven-year-old — and doesn’t want to get her son a phone anytime soon. But even then, it’s still on her mind.

“It’s definitely not a straightforward issue,” Casey said.

She’s about to navigate middle school with him, where phones seem to be everywhere, all the time.

“I drive by all the middle school bus stops and high school bus stops and I see kids just staring at their phones not talking to each other,” Casey said.

Governor Youngkin’s executive order tasks the Department of Education with coming up with a policy aimed at creating cell phone and social media-free schools.

It’s something Secretary of Education Aimee Guidera tells me is a process they want to work closely with parents on.

“We need to put a priority on conversations. Of listening to all stakeholders, especially parents, around their concerns and making sure their voices have been heard,” Guidera said.

While they want to create a distraction-free environment, Guidera said they want parents to be able to get in touch with their kids in case of an emergency.

The guidelines will be in place by Aug. 15, with schools needing to adopt their own policy by the first of the year. And that can vary from school to school.

“We’re learning from school divisions here in Virginia. We’re proud to say we have over two dozen school divisions that are already taking action on this, and we can learn from them,” Guidera said.

One of those divisions is Roanoke City, where Blandy is on the cell phone research group.

“It has all been about “Let’s read the research, and then let’s apply it to our schools, let’s do what’s best by all of our kids,” Blandy said.

President of the Virginia Education Association Dr. James Fedderman put out a statement that reads:

“We recognize the growing concern about the impact of cell phones in our classrooms, and feel it’s essential to approach this issue with a nuanced perspective that considers the real-world needs of our students and teachers. We urge the Virginia Department of Education to engage in meaningful dialogue with educators to develop balanced guidelines that support effective teaching and learning while also addressing legitimate concerns about distractions. Our priority remains ensuring that policies are practical, enforceable, and in the best interest of our educators, students, and families. VEA stands ready to assist in any way we can.”

Dr. James Fedderman, VEA president

You can read a full copy of Youngkin’s executive order here, and find out how you can give your input.

About the Author

Abbie Coleman officially joined the WSLS 10 News team in January 2023.

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