VA governor issues executive order to crack down on cell phone use in schools

Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin is cracking down on cell phones in schools.

He issued Executive Order 33 Tuesday, which directs the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) "to draft guidance for public school divisions to adopt local policies and procedures establishing cell phone-free education."

"This was a moment today to say this must end, and we need to reclaim childhood, and we need to ensure that we are creating vibrant learning environments in all of our classrooms across the Commonwealth," Virginia Secretary of Education Aimee Guidera said in an interview with FOX 5.

The order states that the need for cell phone-free schools is "increasingly evident," citing "the alarming mental health crisis and chronic health conditions affecting adolescents, such as depression and anxiety, driven in part by extensive social media usage and widespread cell phone possession among children."

READ MORE: Loudoun County implements strict cell phone policy for students

"This comes for me as a data person from the data and the trends that we’re seeing about children’s health and well-being," said Guidera. "The data continues to get stronger, and we now have longitudinal studies that are able to focus on what has happened over the last ten years."

The new guidance will not impact school divisions that have already implemented their own cell phone policies, for instance in Fairfax and Loudoun counties, Guidera added.

The governor’s executive order calls for VDOE to publish its draft guidance by Aug. 15. After considering feedback from stakeholders, VDOE will issue its final guidance in September. Local school divisions then must adopt cell phone-free policies by Jan. 1, 2025.

Youngkin also announced Tuesday that 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 the initiative.