Cellphones in Ontario schools: ‘I can do it with a broken heart’ | Marvin Zuker

By Marvin Zuker ·

Law360 Canada (June 10, 2024, 10:29 AM EDT) --
Marvin Zuker
“Cause I’m a real tough kid, I can handle my s---," says an ode on Taylor Swift’s new album, The Tortured Poets Department. “I cry a lot, but I am so productive, it’s an art.” — So very true; thank goodness for our teachers and the everyday sacrifices they make to make it work.

Parents are the ones who must supervise and protect their children on social networks and elsewhere. Parents may not be of help if they post photos of their children online or if they divulge information about their children in a blog. 

Begin to imagine that voice, the child's voice, your child’s voice. That voice that is allergic to hypocrisy. That voice that tells you what they actually think.

Likeminded and not wacko: A tough combination

When I started writing this article, I knew of course that given Premier Ford’s rather strong pronouncement that we need likeminded (like whom?) judges to be appointed in Ontario, unlike the then-attorney general, the late Roy McMurtry, in 1978, who must have thought he and I were likeminded as, presumably, did then-premier Bill Davis. I am now faced with the realization of censorship in all its splendour, that arguably, to quote the heading in a Toronto daily newspaper on May 14, 2024, “Lecce puts lid on wacko speakers.” Policy/Program Memorandum 151 (PPM 151) for example, Professional Activity (PA) days devoted to provincial education priorities (?), no more visits to speak at a school on a PA day by this wacko retired judge and, what is more confusing, who is going to hear what I have to say anyway? Certainly not social media. Can you imagine — imagine — kids learning how to think?  PPM 151 and freedom of thought do not go together.

Is my Grade 2 daughter going to be suspended if she doesn’t put away her cellphone, a birthday gift from grandma? What about Ontario Regulation 440/20, suspensions under Grade 4? No mandatory suspension here, please. No police involvement here. Please update that protocol.

We should be fostering creativity in our schools and critical thinking, not filtering out speakers who may disagree with us. We should be promoting discussion and debate. Creating an environment that can destroy the mind and spontaneity of the spirit is not the answer.

The word “ban” should be banned.

How about cellphone-free schools in Ontario? 

Here we have in all its splendour with Ontario’s cellphone policy, parents’ unfettered access to their adolescent kids during the school day, break time, lunchtime, free time, call home, call your child. That’s not unhealthy? But it goes along with the obvious mandate of not learning how to take care of yourself, become independent and, yes, God forbid, think for yourself. Ironically, of course, your kid’s peers are probably more important to them than you are — ask them. Cocooning during classroom break time is not such a bad idea, given the scary world we are now part of. 

A final thought

I am looking at my Grade 2 report card, all of 7 years of age. On the back it says,

To our pupils,

1) This card has to be signed by your parents and return to your teacher within two days after you receive it.

2) You must keep this card clean.

3) The price of the card is five (5) cents which is to be paid only if the card is lost.

4) This card becomes yours at the end of the year.

On the second page, the Grade 2 teacher wrote: “If he paid more attention and fooled less, he could do much better.”

The next term she wrote, “Much improvement — conduct still not quite as good as it should be.”

Of course, the principal had the right solution, “Marvin would be better off somewhere else.”

And off I went.

I can only imagine if I had a cellphone.

I had something better: a typewriter.

This is the seventh instalment of a series. Part one: Cellphones in Ontario schools, the voice of the child: Both on silent. Part two: Cellphones in Ontario schools, the voice of the child, part two. Part three: Cellphones in Ontario schools, the voice of the child, part three. Part four: 
Cellphones in Ontario schools: Revenge porn and curriculum. Part five: Cellphones in Ontario schools: Social media dangers. Part six: 
Cellphones in Ontario schools: What is doxxing?

Marvin Zuker was a judge of the Ontario Court of Justice, where he presided over the small claims, family and criminal courts from 1978 until his retirement in 2016. He is a professor at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education/University of Toronto, where he has been teaching education law for 42 years. Zuker is the author and co-author of many books and publications, including The Law is Not for Women and The Law Is (Not) for Kids.

The opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the author's firm, its clients, Law360 Canada, LexisNexis Canada or any of its or their respective affiliates. This article is for general information purposes and is not intended to be and should not be taken as legal advice.

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