Stafford County

Northern Virginia public schools enforce new cellphone policy

Several school districts in Northern Virginia are cracking down on cellphone use during school hours, citing concerns over distractions and mental health impacts on students.

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Starting this fall, Stafford County Public Schools will enforce a new policy prohibiting students from using cellphones from the beginning to the end of the school day.

This ban, also adopted by districts in Fredericksburg and Winchester, aims to minimize distractions and enhance focus. Students will still have access to their phones during sports or other after school activities.

"This is a major paradigm shift for our students and families at the high school level," said James Stemple, chief of schools for Stafford County.

Under the new policy, any student caught using a cellphone during instructional hours will have their device placed in a locked pouch for the remainder of the day. Parents will need to personally retrieve the phone from school administration if their child is caught violating the policy.

While the move has garnered mixed reactions from parents, with some expressing concerns about emergency communication, Stemple reassured families that alternative means of contact will be available. 

"We still have phones in the office; you can call the school if you have an emergency. Kinda like when they went to school," Stemple said.

Fairfax County, Virginia's largest school district, is currently considering a similar ban on cellphones. According to experts like Dr. Adrienne Collier, a pediatrician at Kaiser Permanente, limiting access to phones during school hours can have positive educational outcomes.

"I absolutely think that having teenagers and adolescents store their phones in a secure location when they come into the classroom is going to be beneficial to them educationally," Collier said.

Critics argue that while cellphones are valuable for communication and learning opportunities, their presence in schools has also been linked to issues such as cyberbullying and mental health concerns.

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