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Education Minister Bill Hogan in Saint John on April 19, 2024. Image: Brad Perry

N.B. tightens cellphone usage in classrooms

By Brad Perry May 9, 2024 | 5:28 AM

New Brunswick has unveiled tighter rules for cellphone use in classrooms.

Changes to Policy 311 will take effect for the 2024-25 school year in September.

“We have evidence that indicates we should limit cellphone use in classrooms,” Education Minister Bill Hogan said in a news release on Wednesday.

“The clarifications we are making will strengthen Policy 311 by reinforcing the ability of teachers to effectively oversee cellphone use in their classrooms and limit their use to teaching or medical purposes.”

During class time, students will have to place their phones in a designated area on silent.

Cellphone use will be allowed, at the teachers’ discretion, for educational reasons.

Students who use their phones for medical reasons will still be able to keep them on hand.

The updated policy also outlines examples of actions that could lead to student discipline.

They include accessing websites and files considered to be “unlawful, obscene, pornographic, erotic, abusive, gambling, discriminatory, hate-motivated, seditious, harassing, counter to a positive learning environment, demeaning or otherwise unacceptable for school.”

Students could also face consequences if they use school computers or technology to solicit funds or sell items unless it is approved fundraising by the school.

The Department of Education confirmed last week that it was working on updates to Policy 311.

It came as provincial government officials in Ontario announced plans to limit cellphone use in their schools.

Meanwhile, a former education minister under Premier Blaine Higgs said one of his biggest regrets is not banning smartphones in schools.

Dominic Cardy, who is now an independent MLA, said during his time as minister, he thought we needed to teach kids to handle these “incredible tools.”

But Cardy said he now believes that coupled with a decline in discipline, smartphones are “destroying classrooms.”

“There’s some classrooms where you get teachers reporting over 300 interruptions caused by cell phones to 30 odd students in the space of one period. It’s just crazy,” Cardy previously told our newsroom.

The former minister called the pending cellphone rule changes in New Brunswick “a good move” in a social media post.