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Cotton, Kaine Introduce Bill to Study Effects of Cellphones in Schools

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senators Tom Cotton (R-AR) and Tim Kaine (D-VA) today introduced the Focus on Learning Act, legislation that would require the U.S. Department of Education to complete a study on the effects of cellphone use in K-12 classrooms on students’ mental health and academic performance.

“Widespread use of cell phones in schools are at best a distraction for young Americans; at worst, they expose schoolchildren to content that is harmful and addictive. Our legislation will make schools remain centers of learning,” said Cotton.

“We’ve made a lot of progress in our recovery from the depths of the pandemic. But there’s much more work to be done to help students overcome learning loss and excel in the classroom. That includes looking into how cellphone use in schools is impacting students’ mental health and their ability to learn. This bill would help us do that, by gathering information and providing it to schools as they grapple with students’ use of cellphones in class and how to best set them up for success,” said Kaine, who serves on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

  • The study would include insights from a pilot program, also established by the legislation, to provide schools with secure containers for students to store phones during school hours.
  • The bill authorizes $5 million annually for the next five years for that pilot program.
  • In the selection of pilot programs, ED will gather input from parents, students, and educators.
  • The pilot program will allow exceptions for students with health conditions, disabilities, and non-English speakers.
  • Schools participating in the pilot program will have a communication system in place that allows teachers, administrators, and staff to communicate with local emergency responders.

Full text of the bill is available here.