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Bill to pilot cell phone restrictions in Pa. public schools moves out of Senate Education Committee

Two people hold and use iPhones.
Jeff Chiu

Republican state Sen. Ryan Aument’s bill to fund a voluntary pilot program that would allow public schools to use lockable bags for students’ cell phones has been approved by a Senate committee, a move he says makes it possible for the plan to be included in this year’s state budget.

The idea is to allow a limited number of schools to lock up the phones during school time and collect student achievement data while the pilot program is in place. Those schools could then compare student achievement data collected prior to the pilot program. The concern is that student access to cell phones in school diminishes achievement.

The number of applicants chosen would be contingent upon the amount of funding allocated, according to the legislation.

“I can’t think of another issue I worked on in the 14 years I’ve been here that’s resonated quite like this has,” Aument, of West Hempfield Township, said this week in announcing the plan had moved out of the Senate Education Committee by a 10-1 vote.

Democrat Allegheny County state Sen. Lindsey Williams, who cast the lone “no” vote, said she’s interested in working on the bill but would like to clarify its language to allow schools flexibility in how phones are secured throughout the school day. She said the bill could limit districts to purchasing from California-based company Yondr.

Though Yondr has been in contact with Aument, no specific company is mentioned in the bill.

The Senate is in the process of negotiating Aument’s bill, which can be referred to another committee for amendments or be further amended on the floor.

Read more from our partners, LancasterOnline.