On May 15, 2024, Governor DeWine signed House Bill 250 into law. The law mandates that all Ohio school districts adopt a policy governing students’ use of cell phones during school hours. The law is set to take effect on January 1, 2025. The law requires the Ohio Department of Education and Workforce (“DEW”) to publish a model policy that complies with the new legislation within sixty days of the legislation’s effective date.

Meanwhile, districts have until July 1, 2025, to adopt a policy that satisfies the following:

  • Emphasizes the limited use of cell phones during school hours.
  • Reduces phone-related distractions in the classroom setting.
  • If included in a student’s Individualized Education Program (“IEP”), or determined to be appropriate by the school board, permits a student to use phones for learning or to monitor health concerns.

Although the law does not require the banning of cell phones during school hours, it states that any school that chooses to do so will be viewed as complying with the new law.

Reason for Legislation? Governor DeWine and the state legislature are attempting to limit distractions in the classroom to “reestablish the opportunity for students across Ohio to immerse themselves in their classwork.” Increased cell phone usage is not only seen as a distraction to student learning but has been linked to damaging student mental health. The Passage of the law seems to follow an already growing movement across the state to cut back on cell phones in schools. Many districts have already adopted cell phone restrictions that appear to comply with the state’s new policy.

What This Means for Your District? While the core mission of the bill is to minimize screen time during school hours, Governor DeWine insists that districts will have the freedom to “create policies that work best in their environments and for their students.” The DEW is expected to release its model policy before March of next year. Any district that adopts a policy after January 1 of next year must do so at a public meeting of the school board and make the policy publicly available. This includes posting the policy prominently on the district’s website if they have one.