(The Center Square) – Some Washington public school districts have already done it, but a bill being considered in Olympia this week would ban cell phones for students during the school day with few exceptions.

House Bill 2018, sponsored by Rep. Stephanie McClintock, R-Vancouver, gets a hearing at 4 p.m. on Tuesday in the Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee.

The measure would add a new section to state law that says the Legislature finds that student use of mobile devices in schools has had a multitude of negative effects on student outcomes.

The legislation cites a study from the London School of Economics that found the mere presence of a smartphone by a neighboring student, lowers the test for a non-phone student in test scores by about 16%.

The Peninsula School District in Gig Harbor has implemented a cellphone ban during the school day and the result according to a district official has been almost entirely positive.

Kris Hagel is the executive director for digital learning for the Peninsula School District.

“For years we allowed students to use their cell phones in classrooms because we believed that students learning technology are going to make mistakes, and the best way for them to learn is when they make mistakes around a caring human who can re-adjust and change that behavior,” said Hagel. “Unfortunately after the pandemic we started seeing what appeared to be, I'm not a psychologist, but a lot of addiction to cell phones and social media.”

Hagel said they did a lot of parent-night meetings last year.

“Helping parents understand how to create healthy digital humans and focusing on the fact screen time in and of itself is not a complete negative, but it’s what students are doing with devices that needs to be evaluated," he said.

State Sen. Lisa Wellman, D-Mercer Island, chairs the Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee that will consider the legislation on Tuesday.

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Wellman told The Center Square she does not support a state mandated solution to this problem.

“A school director in Bremerton told me a year ago, I wish parents would take the phones away at night because they go to bed in their rooms and stuff goes on that can be very ugly and harmful," she said.

Wellman referenced the bullying that goes on through social media.

“I’ve heard from many people if that kind of thing was going on when I was in school, I don’t know if I’d be alive today," she remarked.

Ultimately, Wellman says it should be up to each individual school and in some cases even the individual teacher to decide on cell phone policy in classrooms.

Bellevue School District Communications Director Janine Thorne told The Center Square, “After implementing a ban on cell phones during class time policy, they are re-evaluating the pilot program to see if it will continue into the next school year.”

Asked if the rollout has been received well or shown success, Thorne replied, “No comment.”

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Gallery Credit: Reesha Cosby

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