Vancouver School Board refers phone-restriction motion to committee

Vancouver School Board trustees voted to refer a motion on restricting cellphones in schools to its education plan committee on Monday.

In January, the province announced it was taking steps to restrict cellphones in all B.C. schools. It said it would work with school districts to ensure they have updated policies for the start of the new school year.

The proposed motion in Vancouver, which had been put forward by school board chair Victoria Jung, would direct the superintendent to update the district’s codes of conduct governing its 110 schools to align with the province.

“The Vancouver School Board has a responsibility to deliver healthy and safe learning environments for students and educators,” Jung said in a statement.

 “[This] motion is about taking a next step toward supporting digital well-being.” 

It also calls for the superintendent to create a working group tasked with examining and reviewing the new rules and their impact over the next school year.

However, trustees on Monday night’s meeting said that the motion required further study, and voted 5-4 to refer it to the VSB’s education plan committee. The next education plan committee meeting is scheduled for May 15.

While the school board motion said digital literacy skills are important, it said they also create challenges.

“The overuse of electronic devices, particularly cellphones, among our younger students has been associated with distractions, setbacks in social development, and hindrances to academic performance,” reads the motion.

It sets a deadline for an updated code of conduct with new guidelines on personal digital device use by July 1, 2024. 

Similar bans were adopted by Quebec in 2023 and Ontario in 2019

An Asian woman and a white man stand smiling with their hands clasped in front of them.
Victoria Jung and Christopher Richardson of the Vancouver School Board are pictured in March this year. Jung, chair of the Vancouver School Board, proposed a motion Monday that seeks to study the use of cellphones in the district’s schools. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Jung told CBC News that having a district-wide cellphone policy would aid administrators and teachers.

“Our job is to keep kids safe. … It’s not just physical, [such as] keeping kids from having fights at recess. It’s actually looking at all the different aspects of their learning and their development, and that includes social media and access to digital devices,” Jung said.

She said the motion gave the district enough runway to implement any proposed changes regarding cellphone use in schools by the start of the next academic year in September.

She said she is keeping an open mind going into the consultation process, and said there would be accommodations made regarding cellphone use for health and equity purposes.

January’s provincial announcement was also grouped with government actions aimed at protecting youth and children from online harm. It included a process for removing images from the internet and pursuing online predators, as well as new legislation to hold social media companies accountable for any harm they may have caused.

Last week, the province said it’s putting its proposed online harms legislation on hold after reaching an agreement with some of the largest social media platforms to increase safety online.


Posted in CBC