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Bill tells Ohio public schools to limit student phone use on property

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Two state lawmakers have proposed requiring Ohio's public middle and high schools to create and publicize internet safety policies, including by disallowing phone use during the academic day in most circumstances.

Under House Bill 485, schools would have to restrict students' social media use and outright ban them from TikTok. The bill would also prohibit schools from allowing students on their personal devices—like phones, tablets and smart watches—unless they are being used educationally or in an emergency situation.

Gov. Mike DeWine’s latest State of the State address focused heavily on children, with phone ban policies among the new priorities he outlined in front of lawmakers in the Ohio House chambers earlier this month.

“It's hard for teachers in an individual class to say, one class is going to do one thing with phones and the other is going to do something else,” DeWine said Tuesday morning. “Having a schoolwide policy clearly is best.”

But at a March roundtable with K-12 faculty from across the state, DeWine said he didn’t think a statewide mandate for schoolwide rules was the answer—something educators attending that roundtable echoed.

“Any time that schools can make the decision without having there be a law is better for all of us,” said John Marschhausen, the superintendent for Dublin City Schools.

As of this academic year, the five middle schools within the district he oversees are entirely phone free. High school students are required to power their phones off during the day, but can still bring their devices to school with them.

“When you walk into a lunchroom, when you walk into a building, it sounds like a middle school should sound. It's loud. Kids are engaged, kids are talking with each other,” Marschhausen said then.

DeWine said Tuesday he will have to see what “emerges” from the legislature on the issue.

HB 485 is awaiting its first hearing in committee. If it passes, it would take effect in January 2025, prior to the 2025-2026 academic year. At the same time, state senators have amended an unrelated bill—House Bill 250—that's further along with similar measures.

Sarah Donaldson covers government, policy, politics and elections for the Ohio Public Radio and Television Statehouse News Bureau. Contact her at
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