House Bill 6171 would require every school district in Michigan to ban cell phones. Why?
Should Michigan school children be banned from using cell phones on the school bus? In class? Bringing a school van to an off-campus sporting event or game?
Should this fall under Michigan state law? In 2022, haven’t schools and school districts had plenty of time to decide for themselves which mobile phone policies work best?
And if there were to be a law, shouldn’t there be a penalty for breaking it?
House Bill 6171 was introduced in June by Rep. Gary Eisen, R-St. Municipality of Clair. It reads:
Beginning with the 2022-2023 school year, the board of a school district or middle school district or the board of trustees of a public school academy shall ensure that each school operated by the board or the board shall develop or adopt and implement a policy that prohibits the use of personal cellular devices by students enrolled in the school during the scheduled school day when the student is at school.
“At school” means in a classroom, elsewhere on school property, or on a school bus or other school-related vehicle.
Under the bill as Eisen wrote, Michigan school boards and charter schools would be given a state-mandated homework assignment: develop a policy to ban cellphones. Whether anyone wants it or thinks the district needs it. It doesn’t matter if someone from the school board agrees with that.
HB 6171 shows the flaws of the “There should be a law” mentality. The bill is toothless in two ways: it does not outlaw any penalties for violations and it credits the districts for developing a policy whether or not it is adopted. Do Michigan Schools Really Need More of Lansing’s Work?
HB 6171 also shows a trend of reduced student access to cell phones in Michigan schools. As parents demand and are denied increased access to classrooms through cameras, school districts such as Grand Blanc Community Schools have also worked to reduce cell phone use among students. Now we have a legislator proposing a ban on cell phones in all public schools.
Eisen did not respond to a Michigan Capitol Confidential request for comment. Earlier this month, he lost his primary election by 41 percentage points. It is unlikely that House Bill 6171 will ever become law.
But why was it introduced? What problem would that solve?