Lawmaker seeks to ban students’ cell phones from classrooms in Nebraska

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sA teacher told a Nebraska legislative committee on March 1 that smartphones in students’ hands in classrooms can be dangerous, as well as a barrier to learning.

Diane Wiggert relayed a personal experience in which she said she was “secretly taped” while teaching. A copy of the recording spread, which she said was intentionally edited to negatively tarnish her image, which led to personal distress and even death threats.

“My life and the lives of my family members became a nightmare,” she said.

Away in the storage box

She offered and counted in support of a bill that, with a few exceptions, would require students entering public classrooms to put personal electronic devices away in the storage compartment.

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Legislative Bill 1078 was introduced by Senator Ben Hansen of Blair, who said its goal was to enhance the learning environment in the classroom and establish consistency in school policies across the state.

State Senator Ben Hansen of Blair (Courtesy of the One Room Information Office)

The legislation says implementation of the bill will be left to the school district and the school.

Hansen said the bill stemmed from calls from teachers who contacted him about their struggles. The pupils do not notice. Pupils distract others. bad behavior. Electronic bullying.

“It all adds up to the barriers to learning,” Hansen said.

On the other hand, he said, electronics has the potential to open doors to information. Hansen acknowledged the positives, but said guidance is needed.

‘host country’

The Education Committee heard public testimony, though it took no action on March 1 on whether to bring the bill into full legislative debate.

Senator Adam Moorfield of Lincoln, a member of the committee, said he had difficulty with the proposed legislation, saying it looked like a “big government” and “nanny state” bill.

State Senator Adam Moorfield of Lincoln
(Courtesy of One Room Information Desk)

Moorfield leaned toward teaching youths self-control and talked about his classroom situations where he told teens in advance to put cell phones away. On the occasions, Moorfield said, a device appears that summons the student.

Hansen later said that it is difficult to teach self-control with an “addictive tool.”

Businesswoman Lynette Sorrentino, in her testimony, described smartphones as “the new form of ADD”. She said it was not an attention deficit disorder, but an addictive system disorder.


“We need to be able to provide limits,” Sorrentino said, adding that children don’t have the acumen to know when it’s time to put a mobile phone in a pocket.

She said she is not against hardware. Her son had a cell phone at the age of 10 in anticipation of an emergency with diabetes. Sorrentino said her daughter had given birth to a baby at a younger age because in the event of a divorce, it was easier to reach her that way.

State Senator Terrell McKinney of Omaha (Courtesy of Craig Chandler)

State Senator Terrell McKinney of Omaha asked whether student distraction was the result of schools’ lack of innovative technologies to engage students.

He also said that cell phones, at times, were valuable in obtaining evidence of wrongdoing.

Wiggert, a teacher who has spoken of recording a cell phone nightmare, said she understands how some think the proposed legislation is too restrictive.

“But there are also people in our midst who don’t know how to use (cell phones) appropriately.”

LB 1078 will allow exceptions which include: teacher permission for an educational activity; a note from the health care provider or manager; Situations in which the student becomes aware of a threat of an “emergency or harm to any person.”

Nebraska Examiner is part of State Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Nebraska Examiner maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Cate Folsom for questions: Follow Nebraska Examiner on Facebook and Twitter.


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