Ontario English Catholic Teachers

Ford Government’s Ineffective Cellphone Policy is More Smoke and Mirrors

“The Ford Conservative government’s new cellphone policy is more smoke and mirrors. It attempts to deflect attention away from the serious impact of recently released grants that continue to chronically underfund education, as well as the government’s repeated policy failures, which stem from its refusal to listen to, work with, and respect teachers.

This latest round of government PR-window-dressing as policy once again shows that Premier Doug Ford and Education Minister Stephen Lecce are completely out of touch with what is happening in Ontario schools and how to best support students and teachers. Schools and teachers alone cannot be expected to solve cellphone overuse and social media addiction.

For years, Catholic teachers have been raising concerns about cellphone misuse in classrooms, which continues because of a lack of support for teachers from government and school boards. It is unclear how, without increased supports and resources, these new guidelines will change anything or improve the conditions in schools.

Requiring teachers to police cellphone activity means less time for teaching, and will not address the root causes behind student behavioural issues – including increased levels of distraction, disengagement, and violence – issues Catholic teachers have been highlighting for years and calling on the government to address, as they interrupt the stability of the classrooms and schools every day.

Ontario schools are facing real issues, from the ongoing teacher recruitment and retention crisis, to increased violence in classrooms, to the urgent need for student mental health supports, all of which have worsened under the Ford Conservative government's wilful neglect. But instead of addressing these issues and making them priorities, Minister Lecce has pushed through yet another last-minute, ineffective, and inadequate ‘plan’ that ignores teachers’ expertise and what students actually need to thrive.

If this government truly cared about students and their success, we would see proper investments in schools and genuine dialogue with teachers. These critical investments include: lower class sizes, for more student-teacher one-on-one time; more mental health supports for students; and greater access to educational assistants, child and youth workers, social workers, and other professionals; as well as effective management and implementation through a genuine effort to collaborate with teachers, administrators, and families on practical, real-world solutions.

Catholic teachers stand ready to discuss and help develop effective strategies that genuinely enhance the learning environment. The last thing Ontario students need is more one-size-fits-all mandates from this government – mandates that are seemingly set up to fail.”

- René Jansen in de Wal, President of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association