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Michigan bill would ban cellphones on school buses, in class

House Bill 6171 would require every Michigan school district to ban cellphones. Why?

Should Michigan school kids be banned from using their cellphones on the school bus? In class? When taking a school van to an event or a sports game off-campus?

Should this be a matter for Michigan state law? In 2022, have not schools and school districts had plenty of time to decide for themselves what cellphone policies work best?

And if there should 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. Clair Township. It reads:

Beginning with the 2022-2023 school year, the board of a school district or intermediate school district or board of directors of a public school academy shall ensure that each school operated by the board or board of directors develops or adopts and implements a policy that prohibits the use of personal cellular devices by pupils enrolled in the school during the scheduled school day when the pupil 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 it, Michigan school boards and charter schools would be given a state-mandated homework assignment: Craft a policy to ban cellphones. Regardless whether anyone wants it, or thinks the district needs it. Regardless whether anyone on the school board agrees with it.

HB 6171 shows the faults of the “There Should Be A Law” mentality. The bill is toothless in two ways: It proscribes no penalty for breaking it, and it credits districts for developing a policy, whether or not it is passed. Do Michigan schools really need more busywork from Lansing?

HB 6171 also shows a trend toward a rollback of student cellphone access in Michigan schools. As parents request and are denied increased access to classrooms through cameras, school district such as Grand Blanc Community Schools have also worked to lessen cellphone use among students. Now we have a lawmaker proposing cell phonebans in every public school.

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 House Bill 6171 will ever pass into law.

But why was it introduced? What problem would it solve?

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.