Los Angeles United becomes latest US school district to ban smartphones

The Los Angeles United School District (LAUSD) board voted on Tuesday to become the latest US school district to ban students from using smartphones while on campus.

LAUSD Board of Education members voted yes to enact the ban which is expected to take effect at the beginning of 2025.

Part of the resolution requires the board to develop the new policy – which officially prohibits, not only smartphone use, but all social media – over the next 120 days. The board voted 5-2 in favor of implementing the new policy with hopes of separating kids from their smartphones and the mental health risks that can come with them.

With nearly 600,000 students, grades K-12, spread across over 1000 schools, LAUSD is the second-largest public school district in the US behind the New York City public school systems schools.

"I think we're going to be on the vanguard here, and students and this entire city and country are going to benefit as a result," said LAUSD board member Nick Melvoin, who proposed the resolution.

“Students are glued to their cell phones, not unlike adults. They are surreptitiously scrolling during school, during class time. They have their head in their hand walking down the hallways,” he said, as posted by state education news outlet Ed Source on X.

Creating the policy

Besides increased anxiety and cyberbullying, experts say smartphone distractions, such as messaging with other students and the constant checking of phones, has a negative effect on student learning.

During the 120-day policy creation, the California state school district will consider factors such as exceptions to the rules, extra privileges, and the least complicated yet most effective way to implement the new procedures, covering issues such as:

  • Phone storage, ex. Lockers or pouches
  • Certain times the ban would be in place, ex.Class, lunch
  • Different ages of the students
  • Different grades
  • Physically disabled students
  • Students diagnosed with learning disabilities
  • Technology used to restrict social media on campus
  • Types of devices under the ban, ex. Smart watches

LA school board member George McKenna voted against the ban, saying he was worried the policy would become too restrictive.

Fellow board member Scott Schmerelson, who also voted "no," questioned how much time the school would have to actually enforce the ban. "I think it's going to be a full-time job being the police of the phone," he said.

US Surgeon General warns of youth mental health crisis

The move comes just one day after the US Surgeon General, Vivek Murthy, reminded lawmakers of their responsibility to protect kids from the harmful effects of social media.

Studies have proven that teens who are on their phones for more than three hours a day are more susceptible to suffer from anxiety and other mental health issues.

Recent Gallop polls have shown US teens spend on average nearly 5 hours per day on social media. Other studies have found 97% of students ages 11 through 17 years old used smartphones during school hours.

Murthy urged Congress to pass new legislation requiring a ‘Surgeon General’s Warning Label’ visibly stamped on all social media platforms posting another urgent plea for action Tuesday on X.

Social media is an important contributor to our #YouthMentalHealth crisis... Congress' top priority should be making these platforms safer by passing legislation to protect kids' health, safety, and privacy," he said.

Meantime, LA will not be the first US school district to ban the use of smartphones and social media on school grounds.

In 2023, the state of Florida passed legislation banning access to social media for the state’s nearly three million students. Other states have since introduced similar legislation.

This March, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis took it one step further, signing a bill that completely bans children under 14 from social media platforms, and requires 14-and 15-year-olds to get parental consent.