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Trina Caravan, principal at Clayton Park Junior High School, says students are more engaged since the school banned cellphone use during the school day. (Jacob Moore/Acadia Broadcasting)

UPDATED: Cellphones banned during class for Nova Scotia students

By Jacob Moore Jun 6, 2024 | 10:12 AM

Nova Scotia students between kindergarten and Grade 6 will have to keep their cell phones turned off and stored out of sight for the whole school day, starting in September.

Students from Grade 7 to 12 must have their phones turned off during class time. Schools will decide if they can use phones for their lessons or if they can use phones outside of class, in the halls or at lunch time.

“Classrooms that are free of those devices enhance learning, improve social interactions and improve and promote well-being,” says Education Minister Becky Druhan.

If students don’t follow the new rules, they could have their phones confiscated by principals.

Some schools have already introduced their own rules, like Clayton Park Junior High School. Since September, students have had to keep them off and in their lockers.

Principal Trina Canavan says students, parents and teachers feel “incredibly positive” about the rules.

“I’ve noticed an increase in student engagement, both in academics and socially. Students are interacting with staff and their peers, allowing all staff to get to know students better as people and learners,” says Canavan.

The government announced their new rules Thursday at Clayton Park Junior High, using the school as an example for what it could look like to implement the rules. The province developed the rules after consulting 800 school advisory council members in a virtual town hall, where the overwhelmingly called to restrict cellphone use in schools, according to a news release.

Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia already have provincial restrictions on cellphones in schools. New Brunswick plans to unveil theirs in the future.

Canavan’s school decided to implement their own rules after consulting with students, staff and the school advisory council ahead of the 2023-24 school year.

Improved engagement without phones

She says Grade 8 students have drastically improved their math grades, with more reaching at least a grade of 60 per cent. But that’s also partly because the school has a large focus on improving their math skills, she says.

Sydney Houston-Goudge, a teacher at Clayton Park Junior High, says students are able to focus more on their schoolwork without cellphones.

“It’s had a really positive impact on our school and our school life and our students, and I’m very glad that we have it.”

Lujain Eldatie (left) and Deveshwar Sivarajkumar, students at Clayton Park Junior High School, stand in front of a no cellphones sign on June 6, 2024. (Jacob Moore/Acadia Broadcasting)

A Grade 8 student at the school, Lujain Eldatie, says she normally wouldn’t have her phone at school, because her parents would say she doesn’t need it.

Under the school’s old rules, students used to go outside at lunch and sit at a small table and play on their phones, she says.

“But this year when you go outside at lunch, because they’re not allowed to have their phones, obviously, they have to do something. So they play basketball, they play soccer, they play volleyball, even if there’s no volleyball nets. They use the fence as a volleyball not,” says Eldatie.

Another Grade 8 student, Deveshwar Sivarajkumar says the classroom environment is better without cellphones, and students don’t immediately grab their phones when the day ends.

“[Students are] getting along with each other outside at lunchtime. On the bus, I also see, nowadays, everyone just talks to everyone. There’s no limit,” says Sivarajkumar.

He adds that he’s making more friends, too.

Schools can determine extent of rules

There are limited exceptions to the province’s new rules. Students from Grade 7 to 12 could use their phones during class for educational reasons if the school allows it.

There are no educational exceptions for kindergarten to Grade 6 students.

Clayton Park Junior High School is pictured on June 6, 2024. (Jacob Moore/Acadia Broadcasting)

Bans can be adjusted based on medical needs, if students have health-related apps on their phones, for instance, or for accessibility needs. These will be determined by the Student Planning Team, along with parents and caregivers.

Cellphones are banned in washrooms and change rooms at any time.

Less cyber bullying, says principal

Canavan says there are fewer “incidents” related to cellphone use, like cyber bullying.

If students used their cellphones in class when they weren’t supposed to, or if they had a conflict with another student, social media or messaging apps were a factor, she says.

The cellphone ban also helps maintain privacy for students. If there is an incident and someone records it to post online, that isn’t happening as much anymore, she says.

Ahead of the next school year, principals will work with staff and the school advisory council to implement cellphone rules specific to their schools.

With files from Kevin Northup.