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Decision on cellphone use in Vancouver schools pushed back to future school board meeting

A student uses a cellphone in a classroom in this undated stock image. (Shutterstock) A student uses a cellphone in a classroom in this undated stock image. (Shutterstock)

A discussion on cellphone use for Vancouver students in kindergarten to Grade 6 has been put off to a future school board meeting, trustees decided Monday.

The original motion, which was on Monday night's school board agenda, was initially brought forward by school board chair Victoria Jung.

"We've heard that digital devices are quite distracting in a learning environment," Jung said Monday night while presenting her motion. "Our role is to create safe and healthy environments for kids to learn in and also prepare them for the world outside of school."

But trustee Suzie Mah called for the motion to be delayed, saying quorum wasn't met at an education plan committee where the matter was up for discussion. Only two out of four committee members attended that meeting.

Mah referred to a copy of Robert's Rules of Order, saying no decisions were able to me made by the committee at that gathering. As a result, she argued, the issue shouldn't have been added to the board's agenda Monday night.

"The other day, when we did not have quorum at that meeting, there was no meeting. It was an informal chat," Mah said. "I'm puzzled as to why the motion is now before us."

But Jung pointed to board policy, which she said "supersedes Robert's Rules." The board's policy stipulates that, when a quorum isn't reached, a committee can forward urgent matters to the board.

"There will always be meetings where people are not available," Jung said. "We're following our guidelines."

Even so, four trustees voted in favour of delaying the motion, while three voted against the postponement.

Earlier this year, B.C.'s premier announced districts would be required to have "appropriate" policies in place limiting students' use of devices by the start of the 2024-2025 school year.

The measure being proposed in Vancouver is to update schools' codes of conduct for kids in kindergarten through Grade 6 so that they "will be required to keep phones on silent and out of sight for the entire school day unless they get explicit permission from an educator," according to Jung's motion.

A policy for middle and high schools is not spelled out. Rather, the motion asks that the board agree to direct the superintendent to have policies proposed and a plan for implementation in place by July 1.

A new date for when the matter will be discussed by the school board has not been set. 

With files from CTV News Vancouver's Lisa Steacy Top Stories

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