Cell phones are now banned in Indiana school classrooms

INDIANA – Next fall, kids in Indiana public schools will face a ban on cell phones in classrooms.

Senate Enrolled Act 185 bans “any portable wireless device” and received bipartisan support from lawmakers. Gov. Eric Holcomb signed the bill into law, which will take effect in July.

The bill requires districts, including charter schools, to adopt policies banning several types of devices during class time. Senators Jeff Raatz and Stacey Donato authored the bill, which Representative Julie McGuire sponsored.

Senator Jeff Raatz

“Even as adults, we’re distracted by using our cell phones,” said Sen. Jeff Raatz, a Republican and the bill’s author, in a February 14 meeting of the House Education Committee.

John O’Neal of the Indiana State Teachers Association testified that since COVID, teachers have reported that student behavior and mental health issues linked to cell phones have spiked.

“It’s becoming a major problem,” O’Neal said. “Students aren’t motivated in class because they’re distracted by their devices.”

Education groups that supported the new law include the Indiana State Teachers Association, the American Federation of Teachers, the Indiana School Boards Association, and the Indiana Association of School Principals.

Rep. Julie McGuire

“While we cannot control the amount of time students spend on social media outside school hours, we can provide reprieve during the seven hours a day that should be focused on learning,” said Rep. McGuire.

Schools must adopt a policy banning students from using wireless communication devices during class time, including cellphones, tablets, laptops, and gaming devices.

Each school district will decide how to enforce the new law. For example, students might be required to put their phones in locked pouches or designated places in the classroom.

It will be up to school boards to adopt these policies this summer.

School districts will determine any potential consequences for students who violate it.

Students can use the tech:

  • If a teacher allows it for educational purposes during instructional time.
  • For example, if a student needs to manage their health care, such as blood sugar monitoring.
  • In the event of an emergency. The law does not define what constitutes an emergency.
  • If the use of the device is included in their Individualized Education Program or 504 plan.

Lawmakers and advocates hope the ban improves student engagement, behavior, and mental health, all of which have declined since cell phones became common in students’ hands.