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Gov. Youngkin issues executive order to draft plan for cell phone-free education in Virginia’s K-12 public schools

Governor Youngkin issued an executive order Tuesday that directs the Virginia Department of Education to draft guidance for public school divisions to adopt local policies and procedures establishing cell phone-free education.

According to the Office of the Governor, Executive Order 33 directs the VDOE to initiate a robust engagement effort with parents, teachers, local school leaders, and other stakeholders to develop collaboratively policies and procedures that establish the age-appropriate restriction or elimination of cell phone use during instructional time and protocols for how parents can contact their children in case of an emergency.

Additionally, the Governor announced that the VDOE and the Department of Behavioral Health and Development Services will make a combined $500,000 available from existing funds to support the implementation of this mental health and safety initiative.

“This essential action will promote a healthier and more focused educational environment where every child is free to learn. Creating cell phone and social media-free educational environments in Virginia’s K-12 education system will benefit students, parents, and educators,” said Governor Glenn Youngkin. “Today’s Executive Order both establishes the clear goal to protect the health and safety of our students by limiting the amount of time they are exposed to addictive cell phones and social media and eliminates clear distractions in the classroom. It also kicks off the robust conversations among parents, students, teachers, and school and community leaders necessary to design and implement these policies and procedures at the local level.”

The executive order directs VDOE to publish their draft guidance by Aug. 15. After hearing feedback from stakeholders, the board will issue final guidance in September for local school divisions to adopt cell-phone-free education policies and procedures by Jan. 1, 2025.

According to the Office of the Governor, nothing in the executive order is intended to prohibit school divisions from adopting age-appropriate policies and procedures ahead of this date or that are more comprehensive than the guidance issued by VDOE.

Over the next six weeks, the Department of Education will facilitate listening sessions and other stakeholder engagement opportunities for public input on the policy, gather feedback, and receive input for the draft guidance.

The Governor said funding from VDOE and DBDHS will support state and local efforts to facilitate family nights and community engagement on the youth mental health crisis and cell phone use best practices. It’ll also enable school divisions in need of assistance to receive microgrants to help implement best practices in their local community.

This executive order will be the first statewide effort to enhance the learning environment by eliminating or severely restricting cell phone devices during instructional time, according to the Governor.

You can learn about ways to engage and provide input here.

Source: WSLS News 10

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