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School boards should make decisions about cellphones

Many news reports about the horrific school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, last month noted that many students called 911 from phones they carried with them. From this, a conclusion could be drawn that cellphones in classrooms are a good thing, at least when it comes to the safety of students and teachers.

The whole picture, however, is much, much more complicated. In fact, experts in protecting schools believe that having a surfeit of cellphones in use within a building could heighten the threat, due to switchboards being flooded with calls, phones making unintended noise during an incident or social media posts that could offer clues to shooters about where individuals are hiding.

School shootings are, thankfully, rare occurrences. But educators have faced a more enduring dilemma in whether to allow students to have their cellphones with them in the classroom. Some say they are a learning tool. Others argue that they are a distraction, can facilitate cheating and cyberbullying, and hinder the social growth of children who are not interacting with one another when they are glued to their devices.

State Rep. Anthony DeLuca, a Democrat from Penn Hills, from introducing legislation that would bar their use in classrooms across the commonwealth.

DeLuca’s proposal is well-intended. To be sure, he and others who would like to see cellphones jettisoned from the classrooms for all but supervised learning experiences have some compelling arguments on their side. A classroom would be an ideal place for young people to learn that there is value in separating themselves from their phones.

We feel uncomfortable with a statewide, one-size-fits-all mandate barring cellphones from the classroom. This is a decision best left to school boards and administrators in individual districts. Let them decide how best to use cellphones, and whether, in their classrooms, they disrupt learning or enhance it.

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