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Pasco schools’ good move on student cellphones | Editorial
New policy balances family needs with order in the classroom.
 
Theater teacher Ryan Bintz, 2022 Pasco County teacher of the year, instructs fifth grade students in 2021 at Longleaf Elementary School in New Port Richey.
Theater teacher Ryan Bintz, 2022 Pasco County teacher of the year, instructs fifth grade students in 2021 at Longleaf Elementary School in New Port Richey. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
This article represents the opinion of the Tampa Bay Times Editorial Board.
Published June 25, 2023

The Pasco County School Board got it right with its new policy on cellphone use in the classrooms. It strikes a sensible balance for students and families that other school districts should consider.

The policy, which takes effect immediately, requires elementary students to keep personal wireless communication devices on silent mode and out of sight for the entire school day. Middle school students may use their phones during lunch and in classes when teachers permit. That’s true for high schools, too, though students there may also use their phones between classes.

Superintendent Kurt Browning preferred a blanket ban from pre-K through 12th grade. That was unreasonable, and the board was right to fashion a middle ground that promotes campus order while still enabling students to communicate.

Cellphones can surely be a distraction in the classroom. But students in middle and high school sometimes use wireless devices for their course work. Many older students also drive, work after school or participate in scholastic activities. Their schedules and responsibilities can change throughout the day, and a cellphone can make it easier for them to navigate those changes. This policy makes the sensible distinction between the routines of first graders and 12th graders. Having a phone within reach, as board member Colleen Beaudoin rightly pointed out, also teaches students in an ever-connected society how to manage life with technology.

The board’s unanimous approval sends a strong message about where the lines are drawn. Teachers will need to enforce the restrictions evenly and fairly, and parents need to cooperate by making sure their children understand the restrictions and comply.

This is hardly the final battle in the struggle over children, technology and social media. Browning said he learned at a recent meeting with legislators that more restrictions are likely to follow. But Pasco took a responsible step on this evolving issue, and now the district’s families and employees must make it work.

Editorials are the institutional voice of the Tampa Bay Times. The members of the Editorial Board are Editor of Editorials Graham Brink, Sherri Day, Sebastian Dortch, John Hill, Jim Verhulst and Chairman and CEO Conan Gallaty. Follow @TBTimes_Opinion on Twitter for more opinion news.